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Coleman will sponsor Rural Renaissance Act

Fri, Oct 31st, 2003
Posted in Features

On Wednesday, Senator Norm Coleman announced plans to sponsor legislation that would invest $50 billion in rural America designed to improve an aging and somewhat outdated infrastructure.

Called the Rural Renaissance Act, each state would get a minimum of $50 million to invest in rural public works projects. The projects would be for communities with populations of under 50,000.

Speaking in a telephone interview from Washington with media, including the Journal, Colemen said the investment is needed to improve wastewater treatment facilities, provide affordable housing, develop high speed internet and build community facilities. Coleman envisions a broad definition of public works.

“Throughout rural America, the lack of funding is undermining the ability of small communities to address their needs, attract new jobs and development,” Coleman said. “The needs are there. Rural communities can’t do it themselves.”

Coleman said that the legislation is an outgrowth of visits he and his staff have made to all 87 counties of Minnesota.

If passed by Congress in the 2004 session, the act would create a quasi-governmental non-profit organization - the Rural Renaissance Corporation - that would issue $65 billion in bonds. The RRC would distribute $50 billion to states to implement eligible projects in the form of grants to communities over a one to three year period. $15 billion would be kept in a fund to repay the bond principal over a 10 year period. Corporations needing tax credits would invest in the fund by purchasing bonds.

Coleman called the financing of the project a creative way to generate the necessary capital without further adding to the nation’s debt.

“The Rural Renaissance Act will empower residents and businesses to upgrade their community’s aging infrastructure, attract new investment and jobs, while still maintaining their small town values and way of life,” Senator Coleman said.

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