GMNP gears up for the legislative session

The 2016 legislative session begins on March 8 and the Greater Minnesota Partnership is already hard at work advocating for our top priorities. The GMNP determined a list of nine 2016 policy positions last summer, but we will be focusing our efforts on a few main issues during the legislative session:

Workforce housing – The GMNP’s top priority this session is passing legislation that will help address the shortage of middle-income, workforce housing that affects many communities in Greater Minnesota. We are seeking the establishment of a workforce housing tax credit that would be funded at $15 million in FY 2017 and $30 million in FY 2018. The workforce housing tax credit is included in the Senate tax bill, which is held over from last year and currently awaiting action in conference committee. In related news, GMNP Executive Director Dan Dorman met with leaders from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce last week and they expressed an interest in working with the GMNP on this issue.

Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) grant program – The BDPI program provides grants to cities and counties to help pay for public infrastructure needed for private business growth. The GMNP is seeking $15 million for the BDPI program in 2016, as well as a policy change that would require the state pay at least 50 percent of project costs up to $2 million. We were pleased to see that Gov. Dayton included $21 million for the BDPI program in his bonding bill.

Broadband – The GMNP supports funding for broadband expansion, and we are glad that Gov. Dayton and the House DFL have both come out in support of $100 million in funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program. The GMNP will also be seeking some adjustments to the legislation language that we hope will ensure that grant recipients include a good mix of projects both inside and outside of cities. There is some concern that many cities, which rely on dependable high-quality broadband for economic development and business growth, do not qualify for grants under the current language.

Commercial/Industrial property taxes – The GMNP supports phasing out the state business property tax by exempting the first $150,000 of commercial/industrial value in Greater Minnesota from the statewide business property tax, without shifting the cost to other property. A study released by the MN Center for Fiscal Excellence found that the commercial property taxes in rural Minnesota were second-highest in the nation, while metro properties were sixth-highest in the nation.