Legislators: Many things to agree on towards the end of the session | Local News
Minority party members in the Minnesota Legislature are no strangers to partisanship, but they say lawmakers can reach agreement on a host of issues before this year’s legislative session ends in mid-May .
Broadband tax breaks, federal business loans and unemployment benefits, and summer school funding are among the legislature’s shared priorities so far.
“I think there are probably a lot of things we could agree on,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown said. Daudt and other lawmakers roam the state while the Legislature is on recess this week.
Lawmakers continue to push partisan messages. Daudt reiterated Republicans’ concerns about the governor’s emergency powers and said House Democrats need to speed up the legislative process to deal with major bills. Democrats say the GOP-controlled Senate must be prepared to address more funding priorities. Still, lawmakers say there’s a lot of common ground to be found between Democrats and Republicans with less than seven weeks until the 2021 session.
Both parties agree on tax relief for Federal Payment Protection Program loans, although there is disagreement on the amount to be remitted. Governor Tim Walz’s revised budget calls for relief on the first $ 350,000 in loans, which state officials say would cover 90% of loans to Minnesota businesses. The Senate passed a proposal earlier this month to eliminate taxes on all P3 loans. Daudt said he supports tax breaks for all PPP loans.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle also agree with tax relief for Minnesotans who have received additional federal unemployment assistance in the past year. There is also support for additional education funding for summer school programs this year in an effort to address classroom issues caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, lawmakers could find the most support for broadband financing and other one-time credits this year as Minnesota faces a projected surplus of $ 1.6 billion, with an additional $ 2.6 billion. Federal assistance related to COVID underway.
“I think this will be the session where the greatest support is given to rural broadband in the history of the state,” Senator Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, told more than 100 people in a virtual town hall. of the DFL Senate on Greater Minnesota Problems. Tuesday evening.
Frentz said after town hall he expected even more support than normal from lawmakers who have all faced calls for help with internet issues in the wake of the pandemic. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle spent as much as $ 120 million over the next two years on proposals earlier this year, and a GOP Senate budget includes $ 40 million for one year of funding the broadband.
Frentz said he wouldn’t be surprised to see that target increase during budget negotiations. The bigger question, he says, is whether this funding goes to wired fiber-optic broadband projects or wireless projects.
DFL and GOP lawmakers have been divided in the past over what type of broadband to support. Democrats tend to favor wired broadband projects because they are the most reliable internet options, but they are also the most expensive broadband networks to install. Republicans tend to favor wireless internet options because they are cheaper, but critics say wireless broadband networks fail too often.
Lawmakers have heard more testimony this year from wireless broadband providers who say the technology is catching up and delivering internet as reliable as wired connections, which Frentz said has softened positions on spending priorities. .
The North Mankato Democrat, who is also the minority deputy leader, said he expects farm proposals such as increased funding for young farmers starting their careers to receive bipartisan support. Frentz said he believes lawmakers could support investment in housing as the state plans to end a moratorium on evictions in the coming months.
It remains to be seen what lawmakers will finalize. DFL and GOP politicians are separated by around $ 600 million on a two-year state budget that they must approve by the end of June, while a variety of issues remain to be negotiated, ranging from increasing taxes on top incomes and businesses to hundreds of millions of dollars. in tax cuts.