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McNamar authors bills to increase program aid and rural business development

ST. PAUL – As members of the State House of Representatives continue to introduce bills in committee, Rep. Jay McNamar spent Tuesday presenting several bills that will have a significant impact on Greater Minnesota residents, businesses and local governments.

One of those bills was HF 2059, a bill that would dedicate $25 million of the bonding bill to the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program. Officials from several rural Minnesota cities testified with McNamar on the value that the grant program has added to the business climate in small towns throughout the state. 

The additional funds provided to the grant program, administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), could be used by rural communities to help expand industrial parks, upgrade utility connections for new or existing businesses, or improve community resources like water treatment facilities to help meet the needs of local businesses and manufacturers.

“This grant program has created over 3,000 jobs in Greater Minnesota, and has helped keep over 4,000 jobs in our small towns,” said McNamar. “With the infusion of bonding dollars I’m proposing, we’ll be able to get businesses started and more people working, buying houses, sending kids to school and continue to improve the quality of our rural way of life.”

Funding for rural counties also remains a concern for McNamar. The state provided an additional $40 million in county program aid funding to Minnesota counties last year. However, 11 heavily agricultural counties with small populations in Western and Southern Minnesota actually saw a decrease in program aid because the rapid rise in farmland values adversely affected the funding formula used to determine the funds. Three of those counties are Big Stone, Grant, and Stevens. McNamar authored HF 2679 in order to address the disparity.

“My bill would fill the gap for what our counties lost in 2014 as we take a look at how we can change the formula at the legislature to avoid this in the future,” said McNamar. “There are many factors taken into account when creating these funding formulas, and when you have land prices go up like they have in the last few years, it turns something that used to work pretty good, upside down.  There should be bipartisan support to move forward on this.”

Stevens County Coordinator Brian Giese joined McNamar to help add context to the funding numbers and explain the significance of program aid to the Stevens County budget.

McNamar finished the day presenting HF 1892 to the House Tax committee. The bill extends the same road maintenance vehicle sales tax exemptions to counties and cities that townships currently receive. The bill would save cities and counties thousands of dollars in sales taxes when they purchase items like gravel trucks and dump trucks.