Our Opinion: Don’t forget work for greater Minnesota

Published 10:20 am Thursday, April 16, 2015

With a little more than a month to go until the end of the legislative session, we ask legislators to remember the emphasis they declared on rural Minnesota when they started the session.

With some of the bills and issues discussed in the last week, it leaves us to wonder whether that is still a goal.

The House Job Growth & Energy Affordability Finance Committee has proposed eliminating funding to build out broadband Internet access across Minnesota. This a step backward from the funding approved last year for Greater Minnesota.

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According to the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and the Greater Minnesota Partnership, nearly 40 percent of Greater Minnesota households lack access to broadband at the state speed goals compared to only 6.7 percent of households in the metro area.

Greater Minnesota’s economy and quality of life is affected by this access to high quality broadband service.

Last week, there were also some reductions proposed to local government aid funding to first-class cities such as Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. The proposed cuts would be returned to the state’s general fund.

While the proposed cuts were not to cities such as Austin, we think what is being proposed undermines the program as a whole, as well as the entire evaluation formula used to determine need and a city’s tax base. It makes us leery that additional cuts could come in the future.

We ask legislators to also remember priorities for Greater Minnesota including workforce housing and job training funding.

This funding is crucial to bringing in workers to fill the open jobs in this area. If you talk to any leaders from the school district or the medical center in Austin they can confirm this need.

Austin residents, along with mayors, city councils and business leaders across Mower County and all of Greater Minnesota will be watching to see how many of these issues unfold.

Please don’t forget this part of the state. When we succeed, the state succeeds.