Before we get to legislative news, I want to congratulate Lakeview H.S. grad and University of South Dakota student Sawyer Stevens for earning a $100,000 scholarship in the Dr. Pepper Challenge football toss. Hats off to Sawyer, who aspires to become a pediatric neurosurgeon, for this achievement. Click here for video of his big win and click here for an interesting Marshall Independent feature on Sawyer – including his amazing recovery from a deadly bus crash that he survived in 2008. Something tells me there will be many more good stories to tell about this remarkable young man and his bright future. Keep up the good work, Sawyer!
As for the latest from the Capitol, this week Minnesota Management and Budget released the November forecast, showing a projected $188 million deficit. This is due to lower-than-expected revenues based on assumptions about federal legislation and U.S. GDP and wage growth.
We are best off taking this forecast with a grain of salt and the February forecast will provide the figures that really matter in terms of how the Legislature responds. Minnesota has the lowest unemployment rate in nearly two decades and wages are on the rise – both of which bode well for our state’s bottom line. I am confident our state’s growth will continue, so let’s hold tight and see where things stand in a few months.
The full budget forecast report from MMB can be found by clicking here.
In other news, hats off to local grant recipients of broadband grants issued by Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. In all, 39 broadband grants totaling more than $26 million recently were awarded to bring broadband access to unserved and underserved parts of the state.
Some grants leveraged funding from the Connect America Funding from the federal government, helping stretch funding from the state. (The Republican-led Legislature approved $20 million in grants for the Border-to-Border Broadband program during the 2017 legislative session.)
According to a press release from DEED, the Milroy Broadband Project located in both Redwood and Lyon counties will receive $742,365 to bring access to a combined 268 unserved households and businesses. A portion of another $760,501 grant will be used to bring online several unserved areas of southwest Lac qui Parle County. The grants are being matched by private funding.
This work will help bring reliable internet service to a part of our state that has been lacking. High-speed internet no longer is a luxury, but a tool that is necessary to function in many aspects of our society. Congratulations again to those who successfully brought grant funding to our region.
On a final note, as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Mining, Forestry and Tourism, I was pleased to see the U.S. House recently pass Congressman Tom Emmer’s bill to reverse the last-minute land withdrawals and to require congressional approval for any future withdrawal actions.
Emmer’s bill (H.R. 3905) came in response to the Obama administration’s decision in the final months of his second term to withdraw nearly 240,000 acres of federal lands from potential development, effectively killing the proposed Twin Metals mining project in Northeast Minnesota. Congress is expected to vote on the bill this week.
The economic growth in this proposal is significant, with the potential for thousands of good-paying jobs, billions of dollars in investments and as much as $3 billion in revenue to support K-12 education in our state. I am thankful Congressman Emmer has taken on this issue in D.C. As we await action from the Senate on this bill, let’s keep the faith that bipartisanship and common sense will win the day.