Category archives
CGMC Programs

The Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) is responsible for recommending how $45.7 million from the Environmental Trust Fund should be spent. The LCCMR received a total of 217 proposals requesting approximately $183 million in funding, and narrowed it down to 101 projects requesting $120.4 million for proposals to present over the next two weeks.

A number of the projects in the running for funding could benefit Greater Minnesota. Proposal 201-G would provide $3 million for local parks, trails and natural areas grants. These grant programs provide funding to projects that do not qualify for Legacy funds and they are a top priority for the Greater Minnesota Parks and Trails organization to which many CGMC cities belong. 

In another proposal, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is seeking funding for a wastewater treatment plant optimization pilot program (proposal 035-B) that would seek ways to help facilities perform better and meet stricter standards without costly facility upgrades. CGMC cities would be eligible to apply for the pilot if it is funded.

You can review these projects and others selected here (the projects that will present to the LCCMR are marked with an X).

Please consider reaching out to LCCMR members and ask them to support projects that benefit Greater Minnesota, particularly the two mentioned above. You can find the members’ contact information here.

In a Star Tribune editorial published last Sunday, columnist Lori Sturdevant wrote about the state’s failure over the past decade to fund Local Government Aid (LGA) on par with inflation and how this lagging investment in LGA has led to higher local property taxes.
 
The column highlights the recent announcement of proposed property tax increases in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minneapolis proposed a 5.5 percent increase, while St. Paul is looking into a 23.9 percent increase (the large increase is to make up for the city’s right-of-way assessment, which was ruled unconstitutional in court). Sturdevant notes that if LGA funding had kept pace with inflation, property taxpayers across the state would not be shouldering such a significant burden.
 
The CGMC is grateful that the LGA program has long received broad, bi-partisan support, but as Sturdevant’s column mentions, some GOP gubernatorial candidates recently made concerning statements about LGA. As we reported in a previous edition of the CGMC in Brief, at a Republican gubernatorial candidate forum in July, two candidates made comments that reflect common misconceptions or outright falsehoods about the program — while the other candidates chose not to answer the LGA question at all. In particular, Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) mischaracterized LGA as taking money out of the pockets of taxpayers and sending over half of it to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. Rep. Dean also said that the program is “not a fair deal” for middle-class Minnesotans.

A transcript of the forum discussion regarding LGA can be read here, while video of the entire forum can be streamed here (the LGA comments begin around 1:26:50).
 
In response to these comments, then-CGMC President Sara Carlson sent a letter to all of the candidates who participated in the forum to set the record straight. The CGMC has always been vigilant in protecting the LGA program and refuting false claims about it. As we head toward the 2018 election, the CGMC will continue to monitor political forums and other events. As a non-partisan organization, we strive to inform and educate all candidates about LGA and other issues that are important to Greater Minnesota communities.

The Environmental Quality Board (EQB) is public body composed of several agency heads, as well as members of the public appointed by the Governor. The EQB provides leadership and coordination on statewide environmental issues including environmental review, state water planning and coordination, and strategic energy and environmental planning. This year, the Legislature expanded the number of citizen slots and specifically designated four for Greater Minnesota, one from each of the rural congressional districts 1,2, 7 and 8.

The posting for these positions will remain open until filled, but the first review of applications will take place Aug. 25. You can learn more here.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue recently certified the Local Government Aid (LGA) amounts for 2018, which is the amount cities can expect following the $15 million permanent increase passed by the 2017 Legislature. The information is available on the LGA page on the Department of Revenue’s website.
 
The total 2018 LGA appropriation is $534,398,012, and accounts for 2.5% of the general fund budget ‒ down from 4.3% in 2002.
 
Greater Minnesota continues to receive more than 65% of LGA, as it has since 2007. The amount of LGA that goes to Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth ‒ which is an issue for some legislators ‒ continues to decrease and is now 32.5% of the total LGA appropriation.

A variety of important issues including Minnesota’s fiscal health, the relationship between the state and local governments, the future of the state’s manufacturing industry, the arts and the upcoming 2020 Census were explored at the CGMC’s annual summer conference, which was held Aug. 2-4 in Fergus Falls. Throughout the three-day conference participants were also treated to tours of city attractions like Fergus Falls’ historic downtown and the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, and an awards dinner that honored 26 legislators and city leaders for their work on behalf of Greater Minnesota during the 2017 Legislative Session.

Read on to find out more about the conference highlights. To see photos from the event, please check out our conference photo album on Facebook.

Presentation performs a ‘checkup’ on Minnesota’s fiscal health

CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson kicked off the conference by performing a “checkup” on Minnesota’s fiscal health. During his presentation, he provided analysis on the recently passed state budget and past fiscal trends to determine whether the state was still on solid financial footing. He concluded that while the state is currently healthy, there are some concerns on the horizon that could lead to budget troubles in the future. You can view the Power Point presentation here.

Veteran Capitol Press Corps journalists participate in panel discussion

One of the highlights of the conference was a panel discussion titled “The Minnesota Capitol Press Corps: Front-Row Seats at the Circus” featuring journalists Brian Bakst of Minnesota Public Radio, Lori Sturdevant of the Star Tribune and Bill Werner of Minnesota News Network, each of whom has at least 20 years of experience covering state politics.
 
The panelists discussed everything from whether Greater Minnesota gets the news coverage it deserves to the biggest challenges they have faced in their years covering the state Legislature and lawmakers. They also provided advice to city leaders on ways to can keep the media — and the public — interested in the issues that are important to their cities. All three panelists said the most important thing city leaders can do is be in touch with local and state media and keep sharing their stories.

In addition to participating in the panel discussion, the journalists also used the CGMC Summer Conference as a chance to talk to city leaders and get caught up on Greater Minnesota issues. Sturdevant wrote an excellent editorial for the Sunday Star Tribune about city officials’ concerns about lingering unmet needs. Werner also did a great story and a radio interview with CGMC President Sara Carlson about issues that are important to the CGMC and rural communities.

You can watch the full panel discussion here.

Teaching cities to unlock their creative assets for economic success

Springboard for the Arts Executive Director Laura Zabel and Rural Program Director Michele Anderson led a presentation and discussion about ways cities can use the arts to help drive economic development. They provided examples of how rural cities of all sizes are utilizing the arts as a powerful tool to engage their communities, promote tourism and enhance quality of life. In their presentation, they shared techniques that communities across Minnesota and the nation have used to address local challenges and opportunities related to the arts.
 
Their presentation also included some small-group discussion and an exercise in which attendees were encouraged to design a flag that showcases their city. The flags were displayed on Wednesday evening at the city-sponsored dinner at Pebble Lake Golf Course.

Bob Kill shares an update on the ‘State of Manufacturing’

Enterprise Minnesota President and CEO Bob Kill provided the Thursday luncheon keynote address on the “State of Manufacturing” in Minnesota. During his presentation, he shared the results of a comprehensive survey of manufacturers across the state. The survey explored a wide range of issues such as confidence in the economy, the state’s business climate, future concerns and the prospects for business and job growth. You can read his full presentation here.

Legislative panel discusses the relationship between the state and local governments

One of the themes that emerged from the 2017 legislative session was the topic of local government control: what issues should be left to local governments to determine and when should the state step in? This topic was explored during a panel discussion featuring four state legislators who have all previously served as elected local government officials: Sen. Matt Little (DFL-Lakeville, former mayor of Lakeville), Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids, former Park Rapids City Council member), Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins, former Hopkins City Council member) and Rep. Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley, former mayor of Browns Valley).
 
In addition to the discussion local government control, it’s important to note that the legislators were asked about the prospects for a bonding bill in 2018. They all agreed that a bonding bill is likely to pass next year, with a size ranging between $800 million and $1.3 billion.

Presentation provides an update on the Minnesota Rural Equity Project

In 2016, the CGMC and our sister organization, the Greater Minnesota Partnership, joined forces with Growth & Justice and the Minnesota Asset Building Coalition on the Minnesota Rural Equity Project, an ambitious endeavor that aims to reduce economic and racial disparities both within Greater Minnesota and between Greater Minnesota and the metro area. Presenters Dane Smith, Anna Odegaard and Matt Schmit provided an update on the project’s accomplishments in 2017 and outlined potential issues that the project could focus on in the future, such as childcare, housing and workforce development.

State demographer stresses the importance of preparing for the 2020 Census

With the 2020 Census just around the corner, State Demographer Susan Brower provided a presentation about the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program and why it is critical to ensuring your city gets adequate state funding. She noted that the LUCA program is a once-in-a-decade opportunity for local governments to make sure the Census Bureau has a complete and accurate address list of all the housing units in your city before the 2020 Census forms are mailed. Brower provided information on why the program is important and how cities can participate. You can see her Power Point Presentation here and video of her presentation is available here.

CGMC elects 2017-18 officers

At the full membership meeting on Aug. 4, members elected a new slate of officers to lead the organization for the rest of the year and through the 2018 legislative session. The new officers are:

  • President – Dave Smiglewski, Mayor of Granite Falls
  • 1st Vice President – Ron Johnson, Bemidji City Councilor
  • 2nd Vice President – Audrey Nelsen, Willmar City Councilor
  • Secretary – Tom Stiehm, Mayor of Austin
  • Treasurer – Scott Hutchins, City of Moorhead

Smiglewski replaces Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson, who served as CGMC president for the previous year. We extend our gratitude to Mayor Carlson for being an excellent president over the past 12 months!

Exploring Fergus Falls

While the conference mainly focused on informational sessions, there were also several opportunities for attendees to have fun, mingle and explore the city of Fergus Falls. On Wednesday evening, the city hosted a rib dinner and live music at the city-owned Pebble Lake Golf Course. Later that evening, attendees belted out tunes during karaoke night at the conference hotel, the Country Inn & Suites.

On Thursday morning, attendees had their choice of one of four tours: a downtown walking tour, a “lakes & prairies” tour featuring stops at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center and Lake Alice, a bike tour along the Central Lakes Trail or golf at Pebble Lake Golf Course.

A special thanks to Fergus Falls Mayor Ben Schierer, City Administrator Andrew Bremseth, Jean Bowman at the Fergus Falls Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, city staff and the staff at the Bigwood Event Center/Country Inn & Suites for being excellent hosts!

Awards dinner honors legislators, city leaders

The capstone of the conference was a cocktail reception (hosted by sponsor Bolton & Menk) and awards dinner held Thursday evening. The dinner recognized 26 legislators, city officials and other leaders who were instrumental in advancing CGMC’s goals during the 2017 session. The full list of award winners can be found on the CGMC website.

Special thanks to our conference exhibitors!

We want to extend a special thank-you to our conference exhibitors, whose continued support of the CGMC helps us put on events like this. They are:

– Aiphone
– Apex Efficiency Solutions
– Apex Engineering Group
– Bolton & Menk, Inc.
– Commercial Recreation Specialists
– Community and Economic Development Associates
– Cooper’s Office Supply
– Ehlers
– Flaherty & Hood, P.A
– Four Seasons Energy Efficient Roofing
– Interstate Engineering
– Landmark Environmental, LLC
– LJA
– Miller Architecture Inc. 
– Moore Engineering Inc. 
– National Insurance Services
– National Joint Powers Alliance
– NFP
– Northland Securities Inc.
– PFM Financial Advisors LLC
– PMA Financial Network
– Springsted Incorporated
– SwedeBro
– Widseth Smith Nolting
– WSB

The  CGMC honored 26 legislators and city leaders at our annual 2017 Legislative Awards Dinner, which was held Aug. 3 in Fergus Falls. A copy of the awards program handed out at the event can be found here. Click on the award recipients’ name to read a press release that outlines their accomplishments over the past year.

Legislator of Distinction- Tax Policy

Legislator of Distinction- Economic Development

Legislator of Distinction- Environment

Legislator of Distinction- Annexation

Legislator of Distinction- Transportation

First-Term Legislator of the Year – Awarded to legislators who are currently in serving their first-term and who were particularly helpful in advancing CGMC priorities during the preceding session.

Rural Leadership Award – Awarded to legislators who helped advance CGMC priorities in several program areas during the preceding session.

Minnesota Legacy Award – Awarded—upon their retirement—to legislators who have demonstrated unfailing commitment and made extraordinary contributions to Greater Minnesota during their legislative careers.

  • Sen. Lyle Koenen (DFL-Clara City)            
  • Sen. Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook)

Excellence in Service (elected officials) – Awarded to CGMC elected officials who demonstrated knowledge, leadership and active participation in CGMC program areas over the preceding session and/or an extended period of time.

Excellence in Service (city staff) – Awarded to CGMC city managers/administrators or city staff who demonstrated knowledge, leadership and active participation in CGMC program areas over the preceding session and/or an extended period of time.

Jack Murray Award for Distinguished Rural Leadership (retiring elected officials) – Awarded—upon their retirement from public service—to CGMC mayors and elected officials who have made special contributions to the CGMC over a multi-year career. The award is named after Jack Murray, former mayor of International Falls, who was instrumental in the CGMC’s formation.

Bob Filson Award for Distinguished Rural Leadership (retiring staff) – Awarded—upon their retirement from public service—to CGMC city managers/administrators or key staff members who made special contributions to the CGMC over a multi-year career. The award is named after Bob Filson, former city manager of Worthington, who showed consistent and relentless dedication to whatever mattered to the CGMC and its members.

Friend of the CGMC – Awarded to individuals (not legislators or CGMC city officials) or organizations who have helped advance CGMC priorities and/or made important contributions to Greater Minnesota.

President’s Award – Awarded to the outgoing CGMC president.

On Tuesday, Gov. Dayton announced he would sign all of the budget bills passed by the Legislature, as well as the bonding and tax bills. Nonetheless, significant controversy continues. Here’s a play-by-play of the final days of the special session, including the CGMC perspective on what may come:

Special session marked by frustration
Before the Legislature had even sent Gov. Dayton all of its budget bills, loud protests rang through the Capitol urging the Governor to “veto everything.” Activists were angered by the perception that Republican leadership in the Legislature had sneaked controversial provisions into a number of bills after reaching an agreement with Gov. Dayton.

Late in the week, it seemed that the tax bill (which includes a $15 million LGA increase) was a possible veto target. Gov. Dayton and other Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, expressed concern over the high cost of the GOP’s tax bill, which comes in at $650 million in the first biennium and grows substantially thereafter. Sen. Bakk urged Gov. Dayton to veto the bill to avoid future deficits.

Legislature tries to tie Dayton’s hands
To pressure Gov. Dayton into signing the tax bill, legislators inserted a provision into a state government funding bill without the Governor’s knowledge. The provision would have withheld all funding for the operation of the Department of Revenue unless Gov. Dayton signed the tax bill. On Tuesday, House Speaker Kurt Daudt acknowledged to reporters the provision was placed in the bill behind Gov. Dayton’s back. When asked if the Governor knew about the provision in advance, Speaker Daudt replied, “He found it eventually.”

Dayton signs budget bills, but responds with his own maneuvers
In response to the Legislature’s maneuver, Gov. Dayton wrote to leaders, “I consider this provision … to be a reprehensible sneak attack, which shatters whatever trust we achieved.” Angered by the perceived slight, Gov. Dayton signed all of the budget bills, but used his line-item veto power to strike any new funding for the operation of the Legislature itself. Gov. Dayton indicated that vetoing the Legislature’s funding was a move to bring legislators back to the negotiating table. Arguing they had not negotiated in good faith, the Governor wants to re-open negotiations on items in the tax bill including tax freezes on cigarettes and the state commercial/industrial property tax.

Rather than return to the negotiating table, the Legislature is likely to sue the Governor on constitutional grounds. The courts will be asked to determine whether the Governor in fact has the authority to use his veto pen to eliminate funding for another, co-equal branch of government.
 
The CGMC perspective
Regardless of how the controversy plays out, provisions in the tax bill that benefit CGMC members cities, such as the $15 million LGA increase and LGA formula fixes, are not likely to be impacted. A lawsuit between branches of government would be on the narrow issue of the Legislature’s funding. In the unlikely scenario that negotiations do restart, they will likely be limited to just a few controversial items. The CGMC will continue to monitor developments.

Final outcome of CGMC priorities
For a brief overview of how the CGMC’s top legislative priorities fared this session, please see this 2017 Outcomes Chart.

The House and Senate, purportedly in agreement with Gov. Dayton, passed a tax bill today that comes in around $648 million for the 2018-19 biennium. The bill includes a permanent $15 million increase in Local Government Aid. To see a preliminary estimate of how your city will do with this increase, click HERE for the CGMC’s updated LGA run.

We want to extend a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who responded to our numerous Action Alerts by contacting your legislators and the Governor about the need for an increase in LGA funding. We were hoping for a larger increase, and we will continue the fight, but it was thanks to your help that this final number is higher than previous proposals from both the House and Senate.
 
Here are links to the SPREADSHEET and BILL LANGUAGE for the tax bill.

Last night’s legislative deadline sailed by without action on several key bills, including the tax bill (which includes Local Government Aid funding). Governor Dayton immediately called a special session at 12:01 a.m. this morning, which means legislators are continuing their work to pass budget bills. There is still hope for an LGA increase, but we need your help!

Take action now!
If we are going to secure an LGA increase, it is imperative that you contact Governor Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka by 3 p.m. TODAY. Tell them that the final tax bill must include a permanent $20 million increase in LGA per year over the next two years.

Contact info

Questions?
If you have any questions about LGA or the legislative session, please contact Bradley Peterson at bmpeterson@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1911.

With mere hours to go until tonight’s midnight deadline, the Minnesota Legislature is hard at work trying to negotiate and pass a state budget and other key pieces of legislation. At this point it appears we are likely headed for a short special session to complete the state budget.

Legislators were holed up in St. Paul over the weekend and managed to pass a few budget bills out of the House and Senate, including the environment and jobs bills. A number of bills are still on the agenda for today including taxes, transportation and bonding.

Since most of the negotiations have been going on behind closed doors – leaving the public, the media and lobbyists out of the legislative process — we have little indication of what will be included in the final bills.

If you have not done so already, now would be an excellent time to respond to this CGMC Action Alert by contacting your legislators and Gov. Dayton to urge them to include a significant increase in Local Government Aid in the final tax bill.

The environmental bill is one of the few bills that passed on Sunday and is now expected to be signed into law by the Governor. Unfortunately, due to continuing opposition from the Governor and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, many of the significant environmental reforms sought by the CGMC were stripped from the final bill, including our call for independent peer review of proposed rules and a prohibition against the enforcement of unadopted rules. On the plus side, the bill includes our request to extend the public comment period for new city permits to 60 days (up from 30 days) and also includes some policy changes regarding the Impaired Waters List.

As for the jobs bills, which passed early this morning and is also expected to be signed by the Governor, it contains several priorities that are important to rural communities:

  • The Job Training Incentive Program is funded at $2.7 million per biennium for 218-19 and 2020-21
  • The Border-to-Border Broadband Broadband Development Grant Program is funded at $20 million
  • A workforce housing grant program within the Minnesota Housing Finance Authority will receive $4 million per biennium for 2018-19 and 2020-21
  • The Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure program (BDPI) gets $1 million for the 2018-19 biennium (excluding a $1.6 million earmark in FY 18) and approximately $3.6 million for the 2020-21 biennium. The BDPI program is funded in the proposed bonding bill as well.
  • The Minnesota Investment Fund is funded at $25 million per biennium for 2018-19 and 2020-21
  • The Job Creation Fund receives $17 million for the 2018-19 biennium and $16 million for the 2020-21 biennium

For updates as this final day of session proceeds, please follow us on Twitter (@greatermncities), Facebook and our website (greatermncities.org.)