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House DFL unveils Greater Minn. package

Minnesota House DFL leaders on Tuesday unveiled a list of priorities for the 2016 session they said will be critical to Albert Lea’s economic vitality.

Included in what they deemed as the “Greater Minnesota for All” agenda were issues of broadband, transportation, local government aid, workforce housing, property tax relief, to name a few.

Paul Thissen

Paul Thissen

Minnesota House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Bloomington, said he has heard extensively about a need for workers when he visits Albert Lea.

He blamed a lack of housing and technical training as reasons for the shortage.

“If we’re going to grow Albert Lea’s community, we need the people to do the work and that’s what this is about,” Thissen said Tuesday during an interview at the Tribune.

Details of the plan include the following:

A statewide investment in broadband.

DFL leaders expressed support for Gov. Mark Dayton’s $100 million investment in broadband. They said the investment levels the playing field for rural Minnesota businesses, families and students to compete in a state, national and international economy.

A comprehensive transportation package.

According to a news release, the lack of a comprehensive transportation package was one of the biggest failures in the 2015 legislative session. The DFL said communities across the state need significant and permanent investment in roads, highways and bridges. The plan includes directing funds to a Minnesota Department of Transportation Fund, as well as small cities across Greater Minnesota.

District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, said a comprehensive transportation plan would have passed if Dayton and the DFL Party had compromised on an increase in the gas tax.

Bennett said she talked to local residents who claimed the increase would hurt them.

An increased focus on career and technical education and rural job training.

A tax credit for workforce housing in high needs rural communities so that businesses can attract workers.

An increase in local government aid and tax relief.

DFL leaders want to increase LGA funding to 2002 levels to provide services to senior citizens, families and small businesses.

They want to create tax relief for farmers and pass a comprehensive oil train safety package.

The plan also includes providing a homestead credit and renters credit property tax for senior citizens and creating a respite care program that would make it easier for families to provide care for loved ones with dementia.

District 27B Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, said it is critically important in the Albert Lea area to assist elderly residents and their caregivers by possibly allowing a person with dementia to be placed in a community-based or home-based setting for a couple of hours to allow caregivers a short break.

Poppe said the component of the legislation would improve the health and safety of caregivers.

Bennett disagreed over DFL claims that 2015 was a year of unfulfilled promises to Greater Minnesota.

She chalked up the DFL’s assessment to political games.

“I understand why the DFL is doing this, but I don’t agree with them at all,” Bennett said.

Bennett said the House of Representatives passed legislation that positively affected Greater Minnesota including job training and other legislation that will allow businesses to partner with community colleges for training.

She also cited nursing home reform as a positive bill that passed for Greater Minnesota in 2015.

Coalition for Greater Minnesota Cities Robert Broeder expressed appreciation in a press release for the DFL plan and said it met several of the organization’s  objectives.

“With a more than $1 billion budget surplus, the goals laid out in the House DFL’s proposal can easily be met this year,” Broeder said. “We hope the House Republicans, state Senate and Gov. Dayton will also take advantage of this opportunity to make key investments that will strengthen Greater Minnesota communities.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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