As we had noted in Greater MN takes longer to connect with paltry House GOP broadband budget, the majority caucus in the House is desperately spinning its legislative history of broadband funding during this past spring's session.
If you spin the truth about broadband funding in the 2015 too hard, you might end up thinking it's 2014.
Indeed, Assistant Majority Leader Dave Baker, R-Willmar, scrambles the timeline in Feasibility study is vital step for broadband in Kandiyohi County, commentary published in Monday's West Central Tribune:
As an Assistant Majority Leader and vice chair of the Jobs and Energy Committee, I will be fighting like heck in St. Paul to make sure we’re prioritizing broadband and that Kandiyohi County has a seat at the table.
Last year was the first year of a two-year term. We put in $10 million for broadband last year, and I hope to build on that next session. I will keep meeting with stakeholders, including my legislative colleagues, and continue to lay the groundwork for next session.
In fact, last year was 2014, and Baker had yet to be elected.
We have to wonder about the fickle nature of Baker's passions as well, for the Minnesota House Jobs and Energy Committee originally proposed zeroing out the state's budget for broadband, while eliminating the Border-to-Border broadband office.
As Baker's colleague Clark Johnson, DFL-North Mankato, observed in Connect Minnesota:
During the 2014 legislative session, I voted for $20 million in broadband grants for underserved areas. Some of that has been invested in south central Minnesota. When Governor Dayton proposed an additional $30 million in broadband grants in his state budget earlier this year, it appeared likely that we would further expand broadband to Greater Minnesota.
With a projected $2 billion state budget surplus last year, there was plenty of room for a significant investment in Greater Minnesota broadband. Unfortunately, the House Republicans initially opposed any type of funding for broadband development grants. It was only after weeks of pressure from Greater Minnesota that they began to consider supporting funding for broadband.
After long negotiations with Governor Dayton, and a special session, the final budget bill only included $10.6 million, about half of what we invested in 2014. A budget surplus is not a time to retreat from investing in critical infrastructure critical to the future of Greater Minnesota. . . .
Johnson's version of this spring's history is supported by contemporary accounts in the press, as the Blandin Foundation documented in an April 15, 2015 post, Rural communities Rally to tell Legislators not to cut broadband investment.
In a compendium of editorials from across Greater Minnesota, Blandin's Ann Treacy gathered these gems for her appeal:
The Post Bulletin makes the point that suggesting wireless for rural areas is like suggesting generators over getting rural homes on the power grid…
"House Republicans seemingly abandoned their broadband leadership role within a week of returning from spring break. Rep. Pat Garofalo introduced the House’s Energy and Economic Development Budget bill last week without any broadband funding. The Farmington Republican said creating hardwired systems for rural broadband is too expensive, pointing to wireless and satellite Internet as cheaper options.
"Why not take his argument a step further and note that new homes being built in Rochester don’t actually need to be connected to the power grid. A variety of generators are available at home improvement stores, which could serve the same purpose without requiring Rochester Public Utilities to incur the added expense of new lines."
The Grand Rapids Herald suggests that a push from the public is needed to help improve the broadband budget…
"The decision not to fund broadband by the House Job Growth & Energy Affordability Finance Committee is far from the final say on the issue. In fact, it could be considered the first of many skirmishes in the session over broadband funding.
"The session has about five weeks to go, and the serious bargaining is still a couple weeks away. There will be House and Senate differences on the issue, conference committee negotiations and the governor will certainly have his say in those talks and then would have to sign off on any final bill. . . ."
The Albert Lea Tribune focuses on legislators claim to be focusing on rural…
With a little more than a month to go until the end of the legislative session, we ask legislators to remember the emphasis they declared on rural Minnesota when they started the session.
With some of the bills and issues discussed in the last week, it leaves us to wonder whether that is still a goal.
The House Job Growth & Energy Affordability Finance Committee has proposed eliminating funding to build out broadband Internet access across Minnesota. This a step backward from the funding approved last year for Greater Minnesota.
According to the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and the Greater Minnesota Partnership, nearly 40 percent of Greater Minnesota households lack access to broadband at the state speed goals compared to only 6.7 percent of households in the metro area.
Greater Minnesota’s economy and quality of life is affected by this access to high quality broadband service.
The West Central Tribune also reminds Legislators to think rural…
"For all their campaigning in 2014 on the importance of rural Minnesota, House Republicans in their budget proposal have chosen to invest $0 for the state’s broadband assistance program."
It's a good thing that Republicans like Baker are coming round to seeing the value of broadband for rural Minnesota. Indeed, he's spinning so fast on this one, he's lost track of what year it is: 2015, the same year of the session during which Greater Minnesota lobbyists and grassroots, with the help of the minority caucus, had to battle and reverse plans Garofalo and Baker's committee concocted.
No wonder Baker is confused.
Photo: Broadband is important for corn farming and other living things. It's part of a healthy business environment for Greater Minnesota.
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