It’s ‘hurry up and wait’ time at the Legislature

We have reached the point in the legislative session where negotiations are taking place behind closed doors. The House, Senate and Governor are working on what is called a “Global Agreement,” which will determine how much of the budget surplus they are going to spend and whether it will be spent on programming or tax relief.

Once leaders have settled on how much money will be spent, what the tax reductions will be, and how much money will go into the reserve account, it will be up to the Taxes and Budget conference committees to determine the exact areas of spending. This process can take some time — it can literally be weeks. However, with all three groups belonging to the same political party and no tax increases on the table, a deal could be reached as early as the end of this week.

During this process, we are spending a lot of time talking to lawmakers, constantly reminding them of the importance of GMNP priorities such as job training, funding to the initiative funds and broadband. All three of these programs are in the Omnibus Budget Bill, and their funding levels will depend on the amount of money that is allotted to the economic development budget area. The GMNP is asking for $3 million for the job training program and as close to $100 million as possible for broadband, as well as supporting $1 million in funding for each of the initiative funds.

The proposed job training program will provide up to $3,000 in grants per new employee to businesses with training programs certified by the Department of Employment and Economic Development. To get certified, programs can be through a higher education institution, a private trainer or on-the-job training. Once certification is granted and the employees are trained, the business will be reimbursed up to $3,000 (the cap is $4,000 for disabled employees or long-term unemployed individuals).

The legislature is also addressing investment funding in a proposal to provide the Greater Minnesota Initiative Funds with $1 million each. The money will be used to offer more loans and present more opportunities to new and existing businesses. This infusion of resources will help all of Greater Minnesota succeed as industries get the type of funding they need to make that next step.

Finally, the broadband fund is just that. In the Budget Conference Committee on Monday, Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth) and Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) gave impassioned speeches about the importance of broadband for economic growth. They urged the full conference committee to support this important initiative.

Action will move very quickly once the conference committee learns how much money it can assign to economic development programs. Please take a moment to contact your senator and representative and urge them to support these funds in the final budget bill.