- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - House Democrats announced Monday they’ll push for another $2 million to dedicate to combatting terrorism in Minnesota and the tide of youth heading overseas.

The large Somali community in Minneapolis and other enclaves in the state have been and continue to be prime targets for terrorism recruitment - and the federal government’s anti-terrorism efforts. More than 22 men have left the state since 2007 to join al-Shabab in Somalia, and roughly a dozen people have left in recent years to join militants in Syria.

Minnesota lawmakers earmarked $250,000 last year to fund anti-recruitment efforts, but Minneapolis Rep. Phyllis Kahn and other Democrats said more is needed. Their $2 million proposal adds to a long list of suggestions of how lawmakers should spend a $1.2 billion budget surplus. The session begins in early March.

It’s unclear how the $2 million would be spent. The Department of Public Safety hasn’t yet doled out the $250,000, noting in a recent report that more studies are needed to determine the most effective approaches to neutralize terrorism recruitment. The state money adds to contributions from the federal government and private entities that put a focus on combatting terrorism in Minnesota; Minneapolis is of three cities participating in a federal pilot project announced in 2014, with Boston and Los Angeles.

Kahn, whose district includes neighborhoods where much of Minneapolis’ Somali population lives, said she’d leave picking the best programs up to social work experts in the area. She mentioned job training, employment assistance and children’s programs as possibilities, adding that she’d like to set aside some money to evaluate the most effective options later on.

“By putting this out, we get people thinking about how it should be spent and what the options are for helping this community,” she said. “This is not an enforcement issue. This is pre-enforcement.”

But enforcement and investigations to root out would-be extremists is just what Rep. Tony Cornish had in mind. The lead House Republican on policing and public safety issues, Cornish, of Vernon Center, made no promises about bumping up funding a year after the Legislature passed the state budget.

“Everyone is dreaming up 100 different ways to spend the surplus. The timing isn’t the best,” he said.

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