From the MN Broadband Coalition…
Broadband Funding to be Heard in House and Senate; Contact your Legislator
Saint Paul—We received the news earlier this week that HF 3029—the broadband funding bill for an additional $30 million each year authored by Rep. Rob Ecklund—will be heard in the House Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division on Wednesday, February 26. The Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Finance Committee will hear SF 3049 on Monday, February 24. This bill is identical to HF 3029 and is being carried by Sen. Rich Draheim. These hearings will give committee members an opportunity to hear from the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition and other advocates about why funding for the program is critically important.
Because the Legislature funded only $40 million in last year’s biennial budget, the Coalition is requesting an additional $30 million each year to match the $70 million recommendation of the 2018 Governor’s Broadband Task Force.
Last year, the Office of Broadband Development received $70 million in applications but only had $20 million to disburse. Well-crafted grant applications were turned away because the Office did not have enough funding to fully meet the need. That’s exactly why the Coalition is advocating for the inclusion of HF 3029 and SF 3049 in this year’s supplemental budget bill. We know that there is significant unmet need and thousands of Minnesotans without access to broadband service across the state. We are excited to have the bill heard in the House and Senate in the same week!
February Revenue Forecast
Minnesota Management and Budget will release its February Budget and Economic Forecast on February 27. This report tells us the overall economic health of the state as well as if the state has additional revenue to spend on a supplemental budget. The November Revenue Forecast indicated the state had a healthy $1 billion surplus. A strong February Revenue Forecast would make additional broadband funding more likely.
Governor’s Supplemental Budget
We expect Governor Walz to release his supplemental budget request in the weeks following the February Revenue Forecast. He and his team are making decisions right now about what items will be included should there be a surplus. Last month he endorsed $30 million in one-time funding for the grant program.
CALL TO ACTION!
Now that HF 3029 and SF 3049 have been introduced and will be given hearings, we’re asking you to reach out to your legislators to urge them to support long-term, full funding for the Border-to-Border Grant Program. Let them know why broadband funding is important to your community. If your community has already received a grant, tell them how it’s changed your community for the better—tell your story!
Find Your Legislators With This Tool
In addition, please reach out to Governor Walz to tell him to include $30 million in long-term funding in his supplemental budget proposal.
Office of Governor Tim Walz & Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan
130 State Capitol
75 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
Meeting Reminder: Tuesday, February 25
A full Coalition meeting will be held this coming Tuesday, February 25, from 3:00 – 4:30 pm at the League of Minnesota Cities offices. A full agenda has been attached to this email and is available at www.mnbroadbandcoalition.com
Day on the Hill – Registration Opens Next Week
Registration for the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition 2020 Day on the Hill will be opening soon. We are currently working on the web registration portal and will send along a note when it is ready. This annual tradition will be held on March 12, so please mark your calendars and plan to attend. It is a fantastic opportunity for you to network with other advocates and speak directly to your legislators and state leaders about the importance of broadband.