Good news: The $21.7 million in immediate tax relief the House passed last week is now in the hands of the governor to enact (he is expected to do so today) after the Senate approved the bill Thursday. It brings the state’s tax code into compliance with federal provisions in time for citizens to benefit this tax season. Look for the House to offer more proposals for tax relief as the session progresses.
As for other news, House committees are settling into their rhythm now that we have gotten through the initial orientations. Much of the focus early this session has been on the top-priority issue of health insurance premium relief.
Last week the House attempted to expedite the 2017 Health Care Emergency Aid and Access bill with premium relief and other important measures. Since that effort to bring urgency to the matter was blocked by Democrats, the bill has been making its way through the committee process. It is our hope this can come to the floor for a vote of the full body yet this week so we can provide relief to citizens who are being slammed by soaring premium prices.
On another subject, we received good news this week when the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development indicated that Otter Tail Telcom was awarded a $517,441 grant to expand broadband access.
According to a press release from DEED, the funding will assist with two projects in the Battle Lake and Fergus Falls areas.
The Fergus Falls project will serve 79 unserved households near Elizabeth and in rural Fergus Falls. Otter Tail Telcom will provide services that will improve telecommuting opportunities for workers, encourage residents to start new businesses, and serve as a magnet for attracting new businesses. The total eligible project cost is $558,542, with $279,271 local match.
The Battle Lake project will serve 62 unserved households in the Clitherall and Battle Lake areas. Otter Tail Telcom will provide services that will improve telecommuting opportunities for workers, encourage residents to start businesses, and serve as a magnet for attracting new businesses. The total eligible project cost is $476,340, with a $238,170 local match.
Approximately $32 million of the $35 million in grants were targeted toward unserved areas of the state – ensuring that broadband grants are going to the communities that need it most.
Congratulations to the people who were instrumental in submitting this successful grant application. Competition for these dollars can be steep. I was happy to support these projects with letters of recommendation during the grant application process and am now pleased to see their efforts pan out. The local matches that are being provided are significant and show their commitment to serving Otter Tail.
Stay in touch and I will be back with more news from St. Paul soon. Also, I encourage people from District 8A to visit the newly renovated Capitol if they get a chance this session. You are welcome to use my contact information in this email to set up an appointment in my legislative office.