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Broadband funds added as jobs and energy bill makes way to House Floor

State support for expanding broadband service got a boost Friday from the House Ways and Means Committee.

As approved by the House Taxes Committee Wednesday, HF843, the omnibus job growth and energy affordability finance bill, sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), would have zeroed out funding for the Office of Broadband Development and appropriated $2 million for broadband grants.

But on Friday, the committee adopted two amendments that would increase broadband funding. A Garofalo amendment would appropriate $500,000 over the next biennium for the Office of Broadband Development. A second amendment, from committee chair Rep. Jim Knoblach (R-St. Cloud), would add $8 million to the state’s border-to-border broadband fund.

House Ways and Means Committee - part 1

To pay for the increases, the committee bumped up the budget target for the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee by $9.57 million to $340.47 million.

The committee voted 15-5 along party lines to send the omnibus bill, as amended, to the House Floor. Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown) abstained from voting.

Garofalo said he expects the full House to take up the bill next week. Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) promised a “long debate” on the House Floor. Reps. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) and Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls) said they planned to introduce amendments on the sale of gold coins and nuclear power generation, respectively.

Among the bills the job growth and energy affordability omnibus bill includes (in full or in part) are:

Moving target

By adopting the amendment to raise the budget target for the job growth and energy affordability omnibus, the committee raised the total spending target for the biennium to $42.6 billion. The (rounded) targets for each fiscal committee are now:

  • Education: $16.87 billion
  • Higher Education: $2.95 billion
  • Taxes: $5.65 billion
  • Health and Human services: $11.62 billion
  • Environment and Natural Resources: $244 million
  • Agriculture: $91.16 million
  • Transportation: $333 million
  • Public Safety: $2.08 billion
  • Job Growth and Energy Affordability: (now $340.5 million)
  • State Government/Veterans: $902.64 million
  • Capital Investment (including capital projects): $1.52 billion

Jonathan Mohr contributed to this article. 

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