MRBC Legislative Update: Final Week of Session

From the MN Broadband Coalition…

Memo To:           MRBC Members
Memo From:      Nathan Zacharias
Re:                       Final Week of Session
Date:                    5/10/2021
Federal Relief Dollars Cleared for Broadband Use by State, Legislature in Final Week

The Minnesota state government will receive $2.83 billion from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in March. The Department of the Treasury provided guidance to states today on how they can use those funds. Minnesota will be able to use this money to pay for broadband infrastructure improvements, including our state grant program. Here’s an excerpt from the guidance:

Through the Fiscal Recovery Funds, Congress provided State, local, and Tribal governments
with significant resources to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its
economic impacts through four categories of eligible uses. … Funds may be used: d) To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.

This guidance gives state lawmakers more flexibility to invest in broadband. They may use federal funds to pay for the Border-to-Border program so they can use precious state general fund dollars to invest in other areas. Or they could use a combination of state and federal funds to maximize their investment.

The Legislature has less than one week in its regular legislative session. They must adjourn May 17 at 12:00 a.m.. Conference committee work has slowed to a crawl after a flurry of action early last week. The conference committees spent several hearings outlining the House and Senate provisions and adopting same or similar provisions to the conference committee report.

Gov.Tim Walz, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, and House Speaker Melissa Hortman are now the primary negotiators of the “global budget targets.” If they can come to an agreement on how much the state will spend over the next two years, they will direct conference committees to adopt funding and policy provisions to their reports and, eventually, send the report for final passage by the House and Senate.

The Senate GOP’s public global offer included $100 million in federal funding for the state’s broadband grant program. However, it also contained items that the DFL considered “nonstarters.” We expect the negotiating parties to exchange several more offers this week. A deal on the budget will likely come together in the final hours of the session and a special session may be necessary to complete the work.

The last budget bill in 2019 came together on the final night and included Walz, Gazelka, and Hortman as chief negotiators. We will share more information with you as we receive it this week.

This entry was posted in Funding, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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