OTC to benefit from large housing, bonding bills

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Many historic initiatives, of benefit to Otter Tail County, were approved during the 2023 Minnesota legislative session.

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

Executives of the Minnesota Inter-County Association (MICA), which includes Otter Tail County, spoke to county commissioners on June 27 about the many benefits that will come to Otter Tail County as a result of the 2023 state legislative session.

Some examples of state assistance to Otter Tail County will include an increase in funding for local housing assistance, broadband, road improvements, bridges, home care services, public safety and county soil and water conservation districts.

One state-approved bill includes one-time general fund appropriations of $18 million each for the Local Road Improvement Program and the Local Bridge Rehabilitation Program. These programs provide grants to local units of government for transportation infrastructure. 

Otter Tail County will benefit from a $1 billion housing bill that allows the state to create a first-generation homebuyers assistance program and a new rental voucher system.

The approved 2023 legislation came with a big price tag, and much debate, with a $72 billion state budget. Taxpayers, as noted by Minnesota Public Radio, will see a mix of tax credits and rebates, as well as some tax increases and new fees coming out of the legislative session.

Two new state agencies were created, one being the Department of Children, Youth and Families and the other the Department of Care and Treatment under the umbrella of Health and Human Services.

Lawmakers agreed to send tax rebates of $260 to Minnesotans who made up to $75,000 a year in 2021 and tax rebates of $520 for couples who filed jointly with incomes up to $150,000. Rebates are expected to go out via direct deposit and checks starting this fall. 

More Social Security recipients will see their benefits exempted from state income taxes.

In the final hours of the legislative session, lawmakers approved a $2.5 billion package of capital investment projects around the state. 

The overall bonding package included $1.5 billion in general obligation bonds and $1 billion in cash to fund construction and repair of state agency and public university buildings, wastewater treatment plants, roads, bridges, parks and grants to nonprofit organizations. 

As part of the agreement to get a bonding bill across the finish line, legislative leaders approved $300 million in emergency aid for nursing homes in crisis. Helping to spearhead this effort was State Sen. Jordan Rasmusson of Fergus Falls.

Minnesota House and Senate members, both Republicans and Democrats, supported a bill to identify strategies to reduce waste in state government, eliminate unproductive administrative spending and enhance the provision of, in their words, “effective, high-value care.”

MICA is a vehicle for planning and implementing projects and programs of interest to member counties, supporting county success through effective state policy advocacy, providing expert analysis and driving innovation and improved outcomes in government services.