Monday, May 04, 2015

House GOP spotlight on rural MN has faded

My opinion: this is all true. And the way the Republicans in St. Paul are short-changing rural Minnesota is especially bad. Then add the fact that they campaigned on "helping rural Minnesota" in 2014 only to see them trample the interests of rural Minnesota makes them hypocrites of the WORST nature.

House GOP spotlight on rural MN has faded
By Nancy Larson, Congressional District Seven DFL Party Chair

Republicans swept into the majority last year by picking up 10 House seats in Greater Minnesota, convincing voters that they would shine the spotlight on rural areas of the state that they claimed had been ignored by the Democrats. That spotlight shone brightly on rural Minnesota at the start of this legislative session, but it faded quickly once the House Republican majority started passing their major bills last week.

Where once there had been talk of a major investment in workforce housing for rural cities, there is now no money to be seen despite the fact that the lack of affordable housing is hampering job growth for many rural industries and hindering business and community expansion plans.

The funding needed to bring high speed Internet up-to-par in rural areas declined from the $20 million invested in the program by Democrats in 2014 to just $8 million in the House bill. That means 40 percent of the people living in rural areas will continue to be denied Internet speeds that match the state’s goals, while in the metro, only 6.7 percent of the populace lack adequate broadband access.

Last year, rural homeowners received substantial reductions in property taxes from the Democrats, but this year they were overlooked entirely in the House GOP bill. Small rural businesses also received significant tax cuts last year thanks to the DFL, but this year it looks like bigger is better.  The biggest tax cut proposed by the GOP does away with the state-wide commercial/industrial property tax, and while small businesses would see their taxes go down if this provision were passed, the metro area will be the big winner under this proposal. That is quite the opposite of the promises made by Republicans who accused the DFL of catering to the metro area.  

In all, the House bill cuts taxes by $2 billion, gobbling up the state’s current budget surplus plus more. The “more” will be paid for in large part by cuts in Health and Human Services, and that will hurt – instead of help – rural Minnesota. A big part of the proposed Republican HHS cuts would be obtained by taking MinnesotaCare away from working-poor Minnesotans.  You read that right—the Republican House wants to eliminate the health insurance subsidy for lower income workers, many of whom live and work in rural areas. But that thinking is wrong for all of Minnesota. And the facts are: the 25 counties with the highest number of people enrolled in the program are all located in Greater Minnesota.

We are fortunate to have the DFL Senate to protect Greater Minnesota by forging final compromise bills that will offer more positives and fewer negatives for those of us living, working and running businesses in rural Minnesota. That does not mean you should forget these earlier bills passed by the GOP majority in the House. Ask your legislators now how they voted on the above issues. Ask them what happened to the Republican promises to rural Minnesota.  Those promises are fading as fast as the light from a fading flashlight.

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