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Economic Development

For Immediate Release
Nov. 17, 2017
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com 

A PDF version of this press release is available here.                                                                            

Greater Minnesota city leaders to state lawmakers: Now is not the time to press the pause button

ALEXANDRIA, MINN.— As the legal fight over funding for the Legislature drags on and the 2018 governor’s race heats up, Greater Minnesota city leaders are urging lawmakers to keep their focus on the upcoming legislative session and not fall prey to distractions. 

More than 100 other city officials from throughout Greater Minnesota convened in Alexandria this week for the CGMC’s annual two-day fall conference. At the event, CGMC members adopted the organization’s policy positions and discussed legislative priorities for the 2018 legislative session. While a bonding bill, local government aid (LGA) and city streets were among the top issues, city leaders also stressed the importance of making sure legislators stay on task.

“Now is not the time to press the pause button,” said Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski, who serves as president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “Greater Minnesota still has a lot of unaddressed needs. We are counting on our legislators to stay focused on their jobs and their commitment to strengthening our communities.”

Bemidji City Councilor Ron Johnson voiced concern that with an election looming, legislators may be more interested in touting accomplishments from last session than passing new legislation in 2018.

“The Legislature may have passed tax, transportation and bonding bills last year, but that doesn’t mean their job is done for the biennium,” said Bemidji City Councilor Ron Johnson. “Truth is, the progress made in 2017 only scratches the surface when it comes to meeting all of the ongoing and growing needs in our city and others in Greater Minnesota.”

City officials who attended the conference agreed that a bonding bill likely poses the best hope for passing a piece of major legislation in 2018, noting that many legislators have voiced a desire for a large public works bill to make key investments in the state’s infrastructure. While each city has its own individual needs, a recurring theme throughout Greater Minnesota is the need for additional state bonding dollars to help repair or replace aging waste water treatment facilities.

In addition to bonding, the CGMC plans to advocate for an LGA increase to help cities make up for inflation and increasing costs, as well as funding to assist with much-needed repairs to city streets. There are also a number of issues on the horizon that the CGMC hopes the Legislature will keep on its radar, including the impact a national tax overhaul could have on local communities and the growing child care shortage in Greater Minnesota.

“Legislators and the Governor will have plenty of work to cram into a few short weeks,” Smiglewski said. “Residents of Greater Minnesota expect our state leaders to set their squabbles aside, buckle down and pass legislation that will invest in the future of our communities.”

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Each fall, CGMC members work together to shape the Coalition’s policy positions for the upcoming legislative session. Policy committees will be convening by conference call in October and early November to draft recommendations which will be discussed and voted on by the full membership at the Fall Conference Nov. 16-17. Serving on a policy committee is a great way to contribute to the work of the CGMC. Please contact the appropriate staff member listed below if you are interested in serving on one or more of the committees. The exact meeting dates and times will be determined soon.

There are only a few weeks left in the legislative session, but lawmakers are still far from reaching agreements on top issues like LGA, bonding, transportation, workforce housing and environmental regulatory reform. It’s apparent that we need to make an extra push in these remaining days of session to demand that legislators take action to address the needs and concerns of Greater Minnesota communities. To relay this message, we are asking all Greater Minnesota city officials and community leaders to join us for a special CGMC Lobby Day and Ice cream on Thursday, May 11.

The tentative schedule for the day is as follows:

  • 10 a.m. – Legislative status update and messaging (Room 500 South in the State Office Building, located across the street from the State Capitol)
  • 11 a.m. – Press Conference on Greater Minnesota issues (State Capitol Press Conference Room B971)
  • Afternoon – Meetings with legislators (attendees should make appointments with their own legislators; we may also ask some attendees to participate in additional meetings with key legislators)
  • 2-3 p.m. – Ice cream social with legislators and legislative staff (tentatively scheduled to be held in the basement of the State Capitol)

Lobby Day is FREE to attend, but we ask that you RSVP to RSVP@flaherty-hood.com by Tuesday, May 9. Free parking is available at the Flaherty & Hood office located at 525 Park St. in St. Paul, just one block from the State Capitol.

We hope to get as many city officials to attend as possible! Please share this Lobby Day Flyer and encourage other city officials and staff to join us.

If you have any questions, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1917.

The Legislature’s Easter/Passover break begins this weekend and lasts until April 18. Since many legislators head back to their home districts during the break, it is an ideal time to touch in with them and make your voices heard!

As the House and Senate prepare for conference committees and negotiations during the final seven weeks of the legislative session, it is critical that Greater Minnesota city leaders continue to speak up. Let your legislators know that CGMC priorities are important to your community and that you expect them to fight for these priorities to be included in the final deals.

Please take the following actions as soon as you can:

1. Pass a resolution urging the Legislature and Governor to return LGA to its 2002 level. See this sample resolution that you can customize to your own city’s circumstances. In addition to the decision-makers named at the bottom of the resolution, also send a copy to CGMC staff member Shane Zahrt at sazahrt@flaherty-hood.com. We will keep a running list of cities that pass a resolution.

2. Meet with your legislators. Call your senator’s and representative’s office this week to set up a meeting with them during the legislative break. If you are unable to meet in person, schedule a phone meeting instead. You can find contact info for your legislators here.  Please address the following topics during the meeting:

  • The Legislature and Governor must pass a tax bill this year that includes an LGA increase of $45.5 million. Despite significant growth in the state’s budget since 2002, LGA still lags behind. LGA plays an important role in restraining property taxes and helping cities provide important services to residents and businesses.
  • The Legislature and Governor must agree on a bonding bill that funds critical infrastructure across the state. With the failure to agree on a bonding bill last year, work on critical infrastructure has been stalled. The CGMC strongly supports $167 million for clean water infrastructure grant and loan programs, as well as $15 million for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) Grant Program that helps pay for the public infrastructure needed for private business growth.
  • Fund city streets. The CGMC strongly supports $50 million in funding for city streets, with $25 million for cities with populations under 5,000 and $25 million for cities with populations over 5,000.
  • Pass at least $200 million a year in funding for the Corridors of Commerce program with cash as well as bond proceeds. Corridors of Commerce helps fund expansion of critical interregional corridors whose bottlenecks inhibit the flow of goods and services important to the economy of the whole state.

If you have any questions about these action items, CGMC priorities or the legislative session, please contact CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson at bmpeterson@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1911. 

Below is statement from CGMC President and Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson regarding Gov. Dayton’s $1.5 billion bonding proposal, which was unveiled this morning. A PDF version of Carlson’s statement is available here.

“We absolutely agree with the Governor that there should be a robust bonding bill this session. Our cities cannot wait until 2018 to make these critical investments.

“We are particularly glad that the Governor’s bonding proposal includes $167 million for grant and loan programs that help cities pay for necessary repairs and upgrades to their water treatment facilities. Clean water is an essential part of a healthy community and we are pleased the Governor recognizes that cities need more financial assistance from the state to ensure that all Minnesotans continue to have access to this fundamental need.

“Another positive inclusion in the Governor’s bonding plan is $21 million for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) Grant Program. With the help of BDPI grants, more than 100 cities in Greater Minnesota have been able to welcome new businesses and see others expand, all while adding new jobs and increasing the tax base.

“The clean water infrastructure grant and loan programs and the BDPI program have received strong bipartisan support in the past and were included in last year’s final bonding bills. We hope this support continues and that the Legislature makes passing a bonding bill this year a top priority.”

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Thank you to everyone who attended the CGMC Fall Conference last week at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center! Due to the forecast predicting a blizzard for much of the state, the CGMC Board made a last-minute decision to condense the two-day conference into one action-packed day on Thursday, Nov. 17. Despite the threatening weather, more than 85 city leaders representing 44 cities attended the conference. We appreciate everyone’s flexibility and patience as we juggled agenda items around to fit almost everything into less than eight hours!

Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle kicked off the conference Thursday afternoon with a presentation on the transportation needs facing our state and the ways city leaders can work together to help convince the Legislature to invest more money into transportation. You can watch video of his speech here and read his Power Point presentation here.

After Zelle’s presentation, CGMC lobbyist Bradley Peterson provided an in-depth analysis of the 2016 election and what it could mean for Greater Minnesota issues this legislative session. Peterson then moderated a panel discussion on the topic of legislative reform featuring legislators Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley), Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) and Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park). Later that afternoon, University of Minnesota educator Ryan Pesch gave a presentation on “Rewriting the Rural Narrative” and led small-group discussions on ways communities can welcome and attract newcomers.

In the evening, attendees were treated to an entertaining and informative presentation by Washington Post reporter Chris Ingraham. Ingraham is the reporter who got Minnesotans riled up last year when he wrote an article that named Red Lake County “America’s Worst Place to Live” (based on data from the “national amenities index”) and then further raised eyebrows when he decided to move to Red Lake Falls in May of this year. Ingraham talked about his transition from living in an urban area near Washington D.C. to small-town Minnesota and the challenges and opportunities it has afforded him and his family. He also shared ideas about how communities can attract more residents by promoting benefits such as short commutes, job openings, telecommuting options and low home prices. You can read more about Ingraham’s presentation in this article from the Alexandria Echo Press.

In addition to speakers and presentations, the conference also included a membership meeting in which members discussed and voted on the 2017 legislative policy positions. To review the adopted positions, click on the following subject areas: Annexation & Land Use, Economic Development, Environment & Energy, LGA & Property Taxes and Transportation. You can also read more about the top priorities for the upcoming legislative in this CGMC press release that was sent to the media at the conclusion of the conference.

Thanks again to everyone who attended the conference – it was a great event despite the shortened time! Please check out the photo gallery on our Facebook page to see pictures from the conference.

A lot of things are going well for Greater Minnesota right now — unemployment is low and many communities are experiencing business and population growth. However, concerns remain. Cities are feeling the financial squeeze caused by years of stagnant LGA funding, projects are at a standstill due to the lack of a bonding bill, and the state still has no real plan to address the millions of dollars in transportation needs in Greater Minnesota.

We will explore these and many other topics at the CGMC Fall Conference, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 17-Friday, Nov. 18 at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria. To register, fill out this registration form and email, mail or fax it to the listed contact. Please register by Nov. 9.

A few of the agenda highlights include:

  • Washington Post reporter Chris Ingraham will provide the keynote address. Ingraham ignited a firestorm in Minnesota last year when he wrote an article that named Red Lake Falls “America’s Worst Place to Live” — then he made the surprising decision to move there! He will share his observations and experiences as an “outsider” who moved to a small town in Greater Minnesota, and also share ideas on how communities can be more welcoming to newcomers and draw in more residents and visitors.
  • MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle will discuss the state’s transportation needs and provide insight on how the state can move forward on a long-term comprehensive funding plan.
  • U of M Extension Educator Ryan Pesch will discuss research that shows many rural cities are actually experiencing a “brain gain” — an increase in adults ages 30-49 who move to Greater Minnesota to raise their families — and other positive trends for rural Minnesota that are occurring under the radar.
  • CGMC senior lobbyist Bradley Peterson will provide analysis of the Nov. 8 election and how the results could impact Greater Minnesota.
  • CGMC staff will provide information on ways city leaders can work together to promote and protect LGA in the upcoming year.
  • CGMC members will adopt the CGMC’s legislative policy positions and priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

Note that attendees are responsible for booking their own hotel rooms. A block of rooms is reserved for the CGMC at a rate of $94 a night. Call Arrowwood at 320-762-1124 to make a reservation.

If you have any questions about the conference, please contact Julie Liew at 651-259-1917 or jlliew@flaherty-hood.com. We hope to see you there!

Each election season, the CGMC provides background information to help candidates become familiar with issues affecting Greater Minnesota communities. The CGMC does not endorse candidates running for political office, but we think candidates should be well-informed about issues are important to Greater Minnesota cities.

Therefore, we have prepared “Elections 2016: Greater Minnesota’s Top Issues” to provide information about several key issues: property taxes & LGA, state budget, transportation, annexation & land use, economic development, and environment & energy. This informational packet was mailed to all of the registered candidates who are running to represent Greater Minnesota districts in the Minnesota House or Senate.

If you have any questions about the information provided in the packet, or if you would like us to mail a hard copy to you, please contact Bradley Peterson at bmpeterson@flaherty-hood.com.

Below is a CGMC press release that was sent to media outlets across the state. A PDF version is available here.

For Immediate Release: July 22, 2016
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

Greater Minnesota city leaders renew push for special session
At annual meeting, CGMC members call on Governor, legislative leaders to keep focus on rural priorities when Legislature reconvenes

AUSTIN, MINN.—At an annual gathering of city leaders from Greater Minnesota, officials from across the state renewed their push for a special legislative session this summer to address the failed tax and bonding bills.

Mayors, city council members and city staff from all over Greater Minnesota convened in Austin this week for the annual Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) Summer Conference. With news that Gov. Dayton and legislative leaders appear to be inching closer to an agreement on a special session after they resumed negotiations July 15, CGMC conference attendees were cautiously optimistic that Greater Minnesota needs could still be addressed this year.

“The regular session was a huge letdown, but there is still a chance for lawmakers to get something positive done,” said Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson, who was elected president of the CGMC for 2016-2017 at the organization’s membership meeting Friday morning. “Now that special session talks have started up again, we are hopeful that the Governor and legislative leaders can set aside their differences and pass bills that will help communities in Greater Minnesota and throughout the state.”

At Friday’s membership meeting, the CGMC adopted a resolution in support of a special session that addresses critical Greater Minnesota needs that had been included in the final versions of the failed bills. The CGMC’s top priorities for the special session include:

  • $20 million increase in funding for the Local Government Aid (LGA) program
  • $133.5 million for clean water infrastructure grant and loan programs
  • $12 million for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Infrastructure (BDPI) Grant Program, which helps cities pay for public infrastructure needed to encourage private business growth
  • $200 million for the Corridors of Commerce program
  • $50 million for city streets, divided between cities with populations of 5,000 and above and those with fewer than 5,000 residents

“The tax bill and bonding bill each contained several provisions that would benefit Greater Minnesota,” Carlson said. “If there is a special session, we urge Gov. Dayton and the Legislature to keep focus on top priorities like an LGA increase and funding for water treatment facilities, highways and city streets. These issues remain extremely important to rural communities. We want to make sure they aren’t overshadowed by other matters when the Legislature reconvenes.”

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With the failure of the bonding and transportation bills, several of the CGMC’s top priorities were not addressed this session. We are still holding out hope that the Governor may call a special session to address bonding (see more on this in the articles below), but at this point it is difficult to guess whether that will happen.

So how did the CGMC’s priorities fare this session? Click on the links below to see charts outlining the fate of our top issues: