Thank you to the people who turned out for the town hall meeting Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen and I hosted at the Lakes Café in Perham last Saturday. The turnout was great and we talked about everything from taxes to health care and high-water issues specific to Perham. The input we received is very much appreciated and it will help us as we face important decisions during the final few weeks of the 2015 session.
House budget bills have started making their way to the House floor to be discussed and put to votes. The first one the House reviewed and approved this week is the Road and Bridge Act of 2015, the major part of a comprehensive proposal for transportation in Minnesota.
The Republican proposal invests $7 billion over the next decade without raising taxes. The 10-year approach prioritizes road and bridge infrastructure. The focus is on immediate repair of roads in Minnesota communities, highway improvements for commuters and commerce, and reliable, long-term funding without raising taxes.
One thing that is especially good about this proposal is it provides more money for small cities throughout the state, including a number in our area. Cities with populations of fewer than 5,000 residents would receive a combined $282 million for transportation-related projects through the House plan. Municipalities throughout Otter Tail County would receive a total of around $300,000 annually.
Approximated distributions include: Battle Lake, $33,754; Dalton, $18,261; Dent, $18,015; Elizabeth, $18,234; Erhard, $16,977; Pelican Rapids, $68,831; Perham, $92,742; Rothsay, $23,999.
The proposal prioritizes repairing or replacing 15,500 lane miles for all roads and 330 bridges statewide. This is accomplished through:
$4.03 billion for state roads
$1.44 billion for county roads
$583 million for municipal roads
$282 million for small cities under 5,000
$139 million for Greater Minnesota bus services
$60 million for township roads & bridges
The House also approved a jobs/energy bill this week. It focuses on making energy cleaner and more affordable, as well as developing market-rate workforce housing and providing broadband Internet funding to continue job growth and technology expansion in Greater Minnesota.
On a separate note, the House also recently passed a bill to provide $900,000 to help address the avian influenza breakout that has affected at least 16 counties in Minnesota, including Otter Tail. The bill provides emergency funds to the Department of Agriculture and Board of Animal Health in order to better prevent and respond to avian influenza.
This should have gone to the governor for enactment as a clean, simple bill but the Senate DFL majority disappointingly added unrelated language to the bill, has bogging down the process and delaying getting aid where it is needed.
Please continue providing feedback as we make our way toward adjourning the third week in May. The House is scheduled to meet on Saturday to continue taking up omnibus bills. The higher education omnibus bill which I have authored as chairman of that committee will come to the floor next week, as early as Monday.