Two Greater Minnesota organizations seek more than half of an expected $1 billion state budget surplus for their priorities.
The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and Greater Minnesota Partnership announced recently that their top funding requests include transportation, high-speed Internet, Local Government Aid, job training and housing.
For the most part, the organizations did not suggest tax increases to pay for their wants.
Rural lobbyist Marty Seifert, a former lawmaker from Marshall, said they leave funding decisions to lawmakers, but added: “We realize there are competing interests for the dollars that are out there.”
Republicans generally have opposed tax increases, but some say they would consider higher taxes for better roads and bridges. Many Democrats have leaned toward such increases.
The $1 billion surplus announced last month nearly could be taken up by inflationary cost increases, leaving the option of forcing state agencies to absorb the extra charges or lawmakers providing more money.
Here are the state price tags in the next two years for programs the partnership and coalition support:
• $45.5 million for Local Government Aid, a program to help cities without a strong property tax base afford fundamental services like public safety.
• $100 million to $200 million to improve Greater Minnesota high-speed Internet services.
• $5 million next year and $10 million a year after to improve job training so Greater Minnesota manufacturers can find skilled workers.
• $100 million to encourage builders to put up housing in communities where there are jobs but too few homes.
• $400 million for Greater Minnesota road and bridge work.
Rural advocates said their wish list would help improve economic growth. The coalition and partnership did not include improved nursing home funding on their priority list. Bradley Peterson with the coalition said that funding, too, is important, but the groups concentrated on things that would aid the economy.
“Since the November election, there has been a lot of talk about making 2015 the ‘Greater Minnesota session,’ but it’s important to define what that actually means,” Peterson said. “If lawmakers are truly committed to achieving long-term growth and stability in Greater Minnesota, they must make significant progress on removing some of the key barriers to economic growth.”