Below is a press release from the Coalition of Greater Minnesota regarding the end of the legislative session. Click here for a PDF version.

CGMC: Legislative Session a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Rural Cities
Coalition President Randy Wilson praises legislature for work on broadband, but says it missed other key opportunities to help Greater Minnesota

ST. PAUL—As the dust starts to settle on the 2014 legislative session, an advocacy group for rural cities is praising the legislature for investing in rural broadband expansion while also expressing disappointment that it failed to do more to help strengthen Greater Minnesota communities.

“The legislature’s decision to fund broadband expansion is a major accomplishment,” said Randy Wilson, mayor of Glencoe and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, an organization consisting of 85 cities located outside the seven-county metro area. “However, we’re disappointed it didn’t do more to help repair ailing infrastructure or create a flexible job training program to spur economic growth in our communities.”

Wilson said the highlight of the session was the passage of a $20 million broadband infrastructure fund, which will help bring high-quality Internet service to parts of the state that currently lack adequate coverage.

“The broadband legislation establishes a solid foundation for the state to start to address the broadband disparity that exists between Greater Minnesota and the rest of the state, and it will help our businesses remain competitive in the global economy,” Wilson said.

Wilson credited the bill authors, Sen. Matt Schmit (DFL-Red Wing) and Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth), and particularly Speaker of the House Paul Thissen and other House leaders, for ensuring that broadband legislation passed this session.

Although pleased with the outcome on broadband, Wilson was disappointed that the legislature failed to make other economic development initiatives a priority and provided only a slight increase to the Local Government Aid program. He noted that despite the legislature approving nearly $1 billion in new spending and tax cuts, it added only $7.8 million for LGA.

“We had hoped legislators would do more to help restrain local property taxes and fund local needs such as public safety and critical infrastructure,” Wilson said.

As the focus now turns to the upcoming November elections, Wilson hopes the needs and concerns of Greater Minnesota will be at the forefront of political discussions.

“Greater Minnesota cannot afford to be left behind,” he said. “I hope our legislators and governor will seize more opportunities to make our communities stronger in the future.”