Lawmakers battle over broadband spending for rural Minnesota

The broadband battle has been joined. Says Brian Bakst for MPR, “Sharp differences are emerging over how Minnesota leaders will spread high-speed Internet to more households and businesses around the state. The key question: How much of the budget surplus will they spend? A Republican-led House committee made its opening bid on Thursday with a bill that would devote $35 million to a broadband expansion fund and put the emphasis on communities that are unserved with high-speed access but also pay some attention to those that are considered underserved. … There are estimates that 244,000 people lack speedy Internet and it would take $3 billion to reach the goal. Advocates for rural cities and small towns say the available dollars have barely scratched the surface.”

Al sees a ripe target. For The Huffington Post Jennifer Bendery says, “Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) tore into Republicans on Thursday for their contradictory positions on blocking President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, saying their arguments reminded him of his past life as a comedian on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ ‘I used to make a living identifying absurdity,’ Franken said at the start of a fiery speech in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. ‘I’m hearing a lot of it today.’ … He got into a back-and-forth with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) about Republicans setting a precedent by denying even a hearing to a Supreme Court nominee, never mind a vote. Hatch said Democrats did the same thing to failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork in the 1980s, which Franken corrected him on. Bork ultimately failed to get confirmed, but he did at least get hearings.”

The Center for the American Experiment’s Peter Nelson has a Strib commentary on the state budget. “The current budget surplus is no doubt largely driven by the massive 2013 tax increase that Gov. Mark Dayton and the then-DFL-controlled Legislature imposed on Minnesota. … With only a few exceptions, Minnesota is losing income to lower-tax states to the West and the South, such as Arizona, Colorado, Florida, South Dakota, Texas and Washington. … .” Dang, but I love a good “our millionaires are fleeing to South Dakota” screed.

Woo hoo! Solvency! Says Maya Rao in the Strib, “The political battle over whether to refund millions in unemployment taxes to Minnesota businesses has obscured the fact that the fund has just hit federally recommended levels for the first time ever. That sobering revelation comes as the Minnesota House passed a measure Thursday to extend benefits for laid-off steel workers on the Iron Range but also return millions of dollars in unemployment insurance to employers.”

Think of it as a lot of small stadiums. For the Strib, Shannon Prather writes, “The state-owned National Sports Center and the city of Blaine are seeking a total of $8.7 million in state funding … . They’re each independently asking for state bonding this legislative session. The National Sports Center draws 4 million visitors a year — more than Target Field — and lays claim to the title of world’s largest amateur sports and meeting facility.” No personal seat licenses as far as I can tell.

But J. Patrick Coolican at the Strib alerts us to this: “St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and the Minnesota United soccer club began their push Thursday for a legislative package to help the team and its private investors build a $150 million stadium in the Midway neighborhood. … despite broad bipartisan support and the backing of Gov. Mark Dayton, the soccer package could be victim of a contentious legislative year in which the two sides are already deadlocked over taxes and transportation and must contend with election year politics..”

Speaking of booze and tax breaks, the Forum News Service says, “Owners of wineries on Minnesota farms are asking lawmakers give them a tax break like other alcohol makers receive. Legislation by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, would provide excise tax credits for wine and cider makers that produce up to 75,000 gallons a year. No farm winery reaches that level. Wine makers told a Senate committee Thursday that the state requires them to use at least half Minnesota-grown produce, such as grapes or apples. No other alcohol maker is forced to rely on Minnesota produce.”

Talk about a loving daughter. Says Karen Zamora in the Strib, “A Meeker County grill and pub owner has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $219,000 from her vulnerable widowed mother in a long string of thefts that forced the elderly woman’s eviction from an adult care facility for failure to pay rent. … Two months after being evicted, [Erma] Marking died at age 91 in a dementia care residence in Dassel.”

And then there’s this guy. Says Tom Lyden for KMSP-TV, “A Plymouth, Minnesota man is charged with stealing all of his 90-year old mother’s money and neglecting her up until her death. Thursday afternoon, David Vanzo was arrested in Pomona, California, where he was still living off his mother’s money. In fact, according to police and prosecutors, that’s the only thing he’s done for years: neglect his mother, and siphon her money, gambling it away or spending it on sex and porn.” I know a gal he deserves to meet.

There is work. Says Martin Moylan for MPR, “State employers reported they had more than 96,000 positions to fill in the final quarter of last year — the most fourth quarter openings since the state began tracking in 2001. Vacancies in the last three months of 2015 were up 8 percent from the same period a year earlier, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development said Thursday.” The vacancies must be from everyone who fled to South Dakota.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 03/18/2016 - 07:25 am.

    The Republican bait and switch

    The last election the Republicans said they were going to fix the rural Minnesota broadband deficiency. They got elected and put all of $100,000 out there to fix it. Essentially wasting the $100,000 because it did nothing to fix the problem, but they got elected on the bait and switch. Greater Minnesota has to remember this for this falls election. Follow this ground rule: Listen to the Republicans and assume the exact opposite . You will be right more often than you will be wrong. Vote wisely Minnesota.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/18/2016 - 08:37 am.

    Our Republican Legislators

    or at least their leaders,…

    still worship at the “all taxes are evil” altar of Grover Norquist,…

    while failing to notice that that altar is located,…

    in a derelict building,…

    with holes in the roof,…

    and the windows broken out.

    Like the prophets of Baal in the days of Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel,…

    they will evidently continue kneeling at that altar,…

    doing whatever they think will bring Lord Norquist out of hiding,…

    to exert the magical power necessary to save them,…

    right up until they suffer the political equivalent of the fate of the “Prophets of Baal.”

    Meanwhile, they will NEVER actually do anything to fulfill their promises to their rural constituents,…

    because the only money they’re willing to spend is money they can steal,…

    from the pockets of powerless people living in poverty,…

    you know, “those” kind of people.

    Perhaps the fact that Donald Trump didn’t win the Republican caucus vote in Minnesota,…

    could give them a clue as to how even Minnesota Republicans feel,…

    about the rampant racism and xenophobia which underlies their desire to steal money from state programs to help those in need,…

    and clue them in to their future fate,…

    but that would require them to be capable of learning from their past mistakes,…

    and doing that would require them to be to able admit that they actually made any mistakes,…

    which can’t and they won’t.

    Somehow, they still believe you can get away with being useless to your constituents,…

    as long as your dog whistle only blows notes in the right key.

  3. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/18/2016 - 09:34 am.

    Franken v. Hatch

    It’s interesting how the Bork matter has reached such legendary status in the eyes of conservatives. Senator Hatch was in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee when Judge Bork was nominated. Even so, he is able to imply that Bork was denied a hearing.

    The fact that a long-serving member of the United States Senate is also willing to engage in a childish game of “tit for tat” is a separate matter.

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