The past week was busy, including numerous district events and a day trip to Saint Paul.
On Monday, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) met to review and provide a final recommendation on the agencies’ annual budget that will go into effect July 1.
We unanimously recommended that IRRRB Commissioner Philips adopt the $47.6 million budget and submit it to the governor for his signature. Because the source of funds for IRRR Agency operations is the taconite production tax and not general fund tax dollars, subject to the governor’s approval that agency is fully funded for the next full year.
IRRR funds can be used to support local units of government and businesses within the taconite assistance area. In our area those boundaries are the same as the Aitkin and Crosby-Ironton school district boundaries.
The Brainerd and Aitkin Area Chambers of Commerce hosted panel discussions with area state legislators. Tuesday the Brainerd Chamber hosted Senator Gazelka, Senator Ruud, Representative Poston, and me for a discussion of issues facing our local businesses.
Later in the week the Aitkin Area Chamber hosted a similar gathering at the Long Lake Conservation Camp, panelists included representatives from our US Senator’s office, Congressman Stauber’s office, Senator Ruud and myself.
A hot topic was the continued federal $300 per week unemployment insurance bonus, which is currently scheduled to run through September. About half the state governors are not accepting that federal money because it is severely handicapping the ability of businesses to bring workers back.
There is no indication Governor Walz will consider curtailing those bonuses. With that federal UI bonus, those able to draw the maximum UI rate are receiving the equivalent of $26.00 per hour to stay home. That’s $1,040 per week. Multiply that by 52 weeks, and it is easy to understand why businesses are having trouble hiring workers across Minnesota.
I also participated in an emergency meeting of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). We approved applying $108,000 of unspent funds to the University of Minnesota for additional Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) environmental testing. Those funds will be used to support additional testing related to the recent discovery of CWD at a deer farm and an illegal carcass dump site in Beltrami County.
Beginning Monday (June 14), I expect to be in Saint Paul wrangling a state budget into place.