Posted: 04/10/15 10:09
by Dave Mindeman
Remember when the GOP took back the Minnesota House? And remember how all the turnover districts were in greater Minnesota? And remember, also, that the House told everyone that greater Minnesota would get more emphasis at the legislature because of that?
Well, maybe the MN House GOP didn't really mean it quite like that.
The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is up in arms about Rep. Pat Garofalo's Energy and Economic Development Budget bill, which, they say...
In another blow to the future of broadband expansion in the state, the bill also eliminates funding for the Office of Broadband Development which helps communities and residents understand the options for obtaining broadband service.
"The House GOP's decision to put $0 into broadband essentially kills the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program," said Heidi Omerza, an Ely City Council member and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). "The lack of high-speed broadband continues to be one of the most pressing issues for communities and businesses across the state. It is deeply concerning that the House GOP has chosen to eliminate the funding needed to expand this vital service."
Garofalo says broadband is too expensive...
"The migration of technology is toward wireless and satellite deployments, and you can get far more coverage at a lower price by using wireless instead of fixed fiber," Garofalo said. "We'll see where the technology takes us, but it's pretty clear that around the world even high density areas are using wireless because the infrastructure costs are so much cheaper."
Garofalo seems to be making a unilateral decision here. The Coalition has been working on broadband access for a long time...yet, Garofalo has axed the program completely. Whether the Coalition was consulted on this is unclear.
But they are not happy.
Dayton and the DFL legislature had committed $20 million to the effort during the last budget cycle. A task force has recommended $200 million more. But Rep. Garofalo has all but killed the effort.
Really. It is one thing to SAY that you are going to put rural issues front and center, but it is another thing to DO the opposite and think you can have no consequences.
Clearly, the House GOP has the impression that they can take the rural voters for granted and then continue on with their agenda to dismantle the very progress that the Democrats have cleared a path for in this state.
Obviously the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities isn't buying it....
"We are astonished as to why the House would ignore one of the state's biggest economic development needs," Audrey Nelsen, a member of the Willmar City Council and CGMC Board of Directors, said. "The lack of high-quality broadband affects communities and regions all across the state. Eliminating state funding for the broadband program will have a grave effect on Greater Minnesota."
Outstate Minnesota is beginning to notice. The Fargo Forum voiced an editorial that sums it up pretty well....
The new majority Republicans have yet to deliver, and if the program they've outlined remains their primary agenda, the promise will not be realized. Despite a good start at the beginning of the legislative session, House Republicans now are setting budget priorities that can't possibly fulfill the needs of their outstate constituents.
Early on, the House majority embraced bipartisan legislation on workforce housing, aid to cities, job training, broadband expansion and environmental regulatory reform - all priorities for greater Minnesota communities. But House GOP budget targets indicate that those priorities cannot be seriously addressed. A cut of as much as $20 million in an economic development budget and $2 billion in tax cuts almost guarantee they will be unable to fund greater Minnesota's long-neglected needs.
As the old adage says....actions speaks louder than words.