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Greater Minnesota a focus in DFL House leaders' new proposals

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Investing in broadband Internet, transportation, job creation and property tax relief are among House Democrats' goals this legislative session.

House DFL leader Paul Thissen and other DFL legislators unveiled their "Greater Minnesota for All" agenda Tuesday morning in an effort to tackle issues to help greater Minnesota – something they say didn't happen last year.

“After traveling the state over the past several months and listening to Minnesotans, we are bringing forward an agenda designed to create jobs and more opportunity in all corners of the state. We need to build an economy that works for all Minnesotans, not just the wealthy few," Thissen said in a news release.

It's worth noting – in the 2014 elections, the Republican party took control of the Minnesota House. Largely, MinnPost wrote at the time, because of rural voters who voted for GOP candidates in seats that had been held by Democrats.

Here's a look at what House Democrats want to get done during this year's legislative session to address growing problems in greater Minnesota:

Invest in broadband Internet

House leaders have backed Gov. Mark Dayton's call to invest $100 million in broadband Internet in greater Minnesota. Supporters say this will help businesses, families and students in rural Minnesota compete against those in the rest of the state, as well as nationally and internationally.

Comprehensive transportation package

House leaders want to pass a transportation package that will invest in the state's ailing roads, highways and bridges – and they hope to make sure greater Minnesota gets a fair share of funding. DFL leaders say not passing a comprehensive transportation package last year was "one of the biggest failures" for greater Minnesota.

Oil train safety

Pass a comprehensive oil train safety package to help keep Minnesotans who live near railroad tracks safer.

Support senior citizens

Provide direct property tax relief for seniors, and improve care for them through a respite care program that would make it easier for people to provide care for their loved ones with dementia.

Other suggested efforts include:

  • Housing workforce tax credit – Providing tax housing tax credits in rural communities will help businesses attract skilled workers, and in turn help those businesses grow, DFL leaders say.
  • Increase school reimbursement – Increase school reimbursement for technical and career education programs from 35 percent to 70 percent, as well as provide job certification rewards to schools for classes that lead to a certificate in certain fields (EMT, certified nursing aide, etc.).
  • Property tax relief – Provide property tax relief for farmers through Agricultural School Building Bond Credit.
  • Increase Local Government Aid (LGA) – Increase LGA to 2002 levels and increase County Program Aid. This will help provide affordable services for seniors, families and small businesses.

Some items on the House Democrats' agenda is in line with Republicans' plans for the upcoming legislative session, which convenes March 8, according to the Star Tribune. The paper notes GOP leaders have also put focus on tax and regulatory relief for businesses and other taxpayers.

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