Minnesota Governor’s Budget Allocates $100 Million to Expand Rural High-Speed Broadband

Gov. Mark Dayon proposed $100 million to boost high-speed Internet access in rural Minnesota, touting the goal in recent weeks as an economic development tool for businesses and entrepreneurs.

by Ricardo Lopez, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) / March 16, 2016
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton Flickr/Minnesota National Guard

(TNS) -- Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday proposed nearly $700 million in new spending during the current two-year budget period, offering his own spending priorities as legislators debate how to carve up a $900 million projected budget surplus.

Expanded high-speed Internet access in rural Minnesota, tax credits for education expenses and working families and racial equity programs received the largest requests for funding in Dayton’s budget proposal.

“When I took office in 2011, Minnesota faced a $6 billion budget deficit, and Minnesota’s children, families, and communities suffered the consequences,” Dayton said. The budget proposal “would protect the financial stability of our state government, while making essential investments to continue to build a better Minnesota.”

The DFL governor proposed $100 million to boost high-speed Internet access in rural Minnesota, touting the goal in recent weeks as an economic development tool for businesses and entrepreneurs.

Dayton is also requesting $100 million push to begin addressing racial economic disparities. “These funds are not yet committed, but will be allocated based on input from communities during the 2016 legislative session,” according to a budget plan released by Dayton’s office.

Tax cuts contained in Dayton’s supplemental budget proposal totaled $117 million, a fraction of what House Republicans have proposed, setting up a likely showdown with the GOP.

Dayton’s proposal will help frame the budget debate during the current legislative session. House Republican leaders, who have pushed for much deeper tax cuts, are likely to offer their own budget ideas in coming weeks.

The governor has proposed expanding the child and dependent care tax credit, as well as raising eligible income levels for the K-12 education tax credit.

His proposal for voluntary universal preschool has been dramatically scaled back, setting aside $25 million in new funding to school districts with higher poverty rates and that lack enough high quality child care programs in the area, according to budget materials released by Dayton’s office.

Dayton has struck a more cautious tone on the budget after the February economic forecast lowered the projected surplus from $1.2 billion to $900 million, a dramatic reduction in only two months since the last budget snapshot.

At a recent conference in Washington, D.C., economists told the nation’s governors that they are nearly certain the nation will slip into another recession by 2018.

Dayton’s proposed budget leaves $202 million on the bottom line, a little cushion in case the next budget forecast further reduces the projected surplus.

©2016 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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