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Torkelson thinks there will be a state budget surplus

NEW ULM — District 16B Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, told Brown County commissioners he thinks there will be a Minnesota budget surplus next year.

“There may or may not be a surplus, but we think there will be. If so, there are lots funding needs,” Torkelson said.

Due to a St. Paul meeting, Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, was unable to attend county board meeting, Torkelson said. The 2020 legislative session begins Feb. 11.

“Transportation is big on our minds now,” said Commissioner Scott Windschitl.

“I was very hopeful the federal government would come through with Highway 14 (New Ulm to Nicollet expansion funding),” Torkelson said. “I’ll advocate for it. We’ve made a lot of Highway 14 progress. The New Ulm Gateway project may open this year. The project between Owatonna and Dodge Center is funded to start next year.”

Brown County Public Health Director Karen Moritz said all Brown County communities are interested in raising the legal tobacco sale age to 21 and restricting tobacco flavors directed at children.

“Any (smoking) product aimed at our children doesn’t belong on our shelves. We have to protect our kids,” Torkelson said.

Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens asked if there will be any new transportation funding other than bonding.

“Rumor is the governor will float a gas tax (hike) again,” Torkelson said.

“We’d like to get more funding for a 2022 bridge (replacing a now closed truss bridge over the Minnesota River between Fort Ridgely and Franklin). We have $1.2 million in federal funding but it’ll cost a lot more than that.”

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