ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Democrats in the State House Tuesday unveiled an ambitious “to do” list for rural Minnesota.

They say they’re prepared to use up to $400 million from the state’s huge budget surplus to start focusing on what they say are specific issues that are having a tremendous impact on rural Minnesota, and that Twin Cities residents might not even think about.

Hundreds of oil trains — each one hundreds of cars long– are moving through small towns, tying up traffic and posing major delays, as well as fire and derailment risks.

And it’s hard for the average city internet user to grasp, but some parts of rural Minnesota still have no dial up, or no access to broadband.

“It’s not fair that 94 percent of households in the Metro area have adequate speeds for the internet, and that’s only 61 percent out in rural Minnesota,” Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth) said. “In fact, many of our counties out in rural Minnesota — less than half of our households — have good access to the internet. That is the great economic equalizer.”

Democrats are also proposing direct property tax relief for seniors — a tax exemption up to $5,600.

Republicans control the Minnesota House, so passing any of the proposals would be an uphill battle.

Pat Kessler