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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. 

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.

A printable, PDF version of this press release is available here. For more information on the Senate’s bonding bill, check out this list of projects funded under the bill.

For Immediate Release: May 2, 2016
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

Senate bonding bill includes funding for key Greater Minnesota priorities

ST. PAUL—The Minnesota Senate showed support for key Greater Minnesota infrastructure programs when it unveiled its bonding bill this morning. The bill includes significant funding for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities’ (CGMC) two main bonding priorities — $167 million for clean water infrastructure grant and loan programs and $15 million for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) Grant Program.

“I’d like to thank the Senate Capital Investment Committee and its chair Sen. Stumpf for recognizing the needs of Greater Minnesota communities in their bonding bill,” said Robert Broeder, mayor of Le Sueur and president of the CGMC. “I’m pleased to see that the Senate has joined Gov. Dayton in supporting important infrastructure programs that benefit cities across Minnesota.”

Greater Minnesota city leaders have been vocal about the struggles many of their cities currently face when it comes to paying for required upgrades and repairs to wastewater and drinking water facilities. The Senate’s capital investment plan includes a combined $167 million for three key grant and loan programs that help cities pay for these updates. Gov. Dayton included the same amount in his bonding bill released in January.

“Funding for clean water infrastructure should be the foundation of the bonding bill,” Broeder said. “As facilities age and the state imposes expensive new regulations on wastewater facilities, cities are forced to pass the added costs onto their residents and businesses. State funding is absolutely necessary to help cities offset these massive expenses.”

The BDPI program, which helps cities in Greater Minnesota pay for public infrastructure needed for private business growth, is also a top priority for the CGMC because of its proven track record of helping attract companies and jobs to rural communities. At $15 million, the Senate’s bonding bill includes less for the BDPI program than the Governor’s plan which calls for $21 million.

“The BDPI program has led to the creation of thousands of jobs in Greater Minnesota,” Broeder said. “It has a tremendous return on investment.”

Now that the Senate and Governor have both released their bonding proposals, eyes are turning toward the House.

“As the House crafts its bonding bill, it’s critical that our House members match the Senate’s commitment to addressing Greater Minnesota’s water infrastructure and economic development needs,” Broeder said.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 88 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to Greater Minnesota. Visit the CGMC online at greatermncities.org.

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Below is statement to the media from CGMC President and Le Sueur Mayor Robert Broeder on today’s announcement that Gov. Dayton has included $21 million for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Infrastructure (BDPI) grant program in his bonding bill proposal. A PDF version of this statement is available here.

For Immediate Release: Jan. 15, 2016
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

Greater Minnesota economic development gets boost as Gov. Dayton’s bonding bill includes $21M for BDPI program

“We are thrilled that Gov. Dayton’s bonding bill includes $21 million for the Business Development Public Infrastructure grant program. The BDPI program is one of the most important economic development tools for cities in Greater Minnesota. These grants have helped more than 100 cities pay for infrastructure improvements that are absolutely critical to bringing business growth and jobs into our communities.

“As a direct result of the BDPI program, more than 2,000 jobs have been created in Greater Minnesota and the state’s tax base has increased by millions of dollars. We are grateful that the Governor recognizes the value in this key program. As the House and Senate prepare their bonding bills, we hope they will also show a commitment to helping more cities take advantage of the opportunities a BDPI grant provides.”

For more information about the BDPI program and cities that have received grants, please read this informational handout created for the CGMC.

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The jobs bill — the last bill that needed to be completed before the special session — was released late Wednesday night. Like the previous jobs bill that was vetoed by Gov. Dayton at the end of the regular session, this new version contains funding for several CGMC and Greater Minnesota Partnership (GMNP) priorities including broadband, workforce housing, job training and the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) grant program. The amount of money for these programs in the new bill is also very similar to what was allocated in the vetoed one. Here is how the CGMC/GMNP priorities fared:

  • Broadband – Although Gov. Dayton said earlier this week that he was pushing for additional broadband funding, the final bill includes only $10.6 million for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program — the same amount as in the vetoed bill.
  • Workforce housing – The bill expands the workforce housing pilot program that was created last year under the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). This grant program will receive $1.37 million in FY 2016 and $2 million a year thereafter. The special session bill also restricts the program to Greater Minnesota — a welcome change from the vetoed bill, which would have allowed the grants to be used statewide.
  • Job training – The bill includes $900,000 for FY 2016 and $900,000 for FY 2017 for a new, employer-driven job training program.
  • BDPI – The BDPI program receives $1.9 million in FY 2016 and $1.3 million in FY 2017 under the bill. However, all of the money for 2016 is earmarked to go to Cambridge and Taylors Falls. An additional $1 million for the BDPI program is also included in the bonding bill.

While we are glad that these important issues were addressed in the jobs bill, we are disappointed that they weren’t funded at the levels necessary to truly foster economic growth throughout Greater Minnesota.

The CGMC and its sister organization, the Greater Minnesota Partnership (GMNP), are joining together to form a working group to investigate workforce housing issues and potential solutions to be brought to the legislature in the 2015 session.

The group will meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23 at the Flaherty & Hood Office in St. Paul. Any CGMC members interested in participating should contact Dan Dorman at dan@gmnp.org. In addition, if your city has done any reports or studies on this issue, please send them to Dan so that they can be used as we research and gather information.

Growing businesses and jobs is essential to keep Greater Minnesota healthy in the future.   The CGMC dedicated an afternoon to the topic of economic development at our summer conference in Grand Rapids. 

Kathy Tunheim, Governor Dayton’s Senior Adviser for Job Creation, talked about the  “Get Minnesota Working” plan and emphasized the five key initiatives of the governor in her presentation.

Mark Lofthus, with the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), provided an overview of business development in Minnesota.  He described current and future initiatives in his presentation, which can be found here.

Jeff Nelson, with DEED, spoke about how the angel investor tax credit works and how it could spur development.  His presentation can be found here.

Todd Leonard spoke about the Minnesota Angel Network, a newly formed group dedicated to accelerating business growth in the state. It aims to educate , connect and catalyze entrepreneurs.  It may be looking to partner with a few Minnesota cities.  Read his presentation here.

Rob West explained how APEX supports business development in Greater Minnesota.  Read about it here.

Commissioner Tony Sertich outlined the work of the Iron Range Resources Board in his presentation.

Greater Mankato Growth Hosts Issues Dialogue, Surveys Members on LGA

In an effort to engage their members, Greater Mankato Growth, Inc. (their Chamber of Commerce) hosted an issues dialogue on Local Government Aid. Offering perspectives at the forum were Mark Haveman, Executive Director of the Minnesota Tax Payers Association; Mark Dehen, Mayor of North Mankato; and Pat Hentges the Mankato City Manager. Following this event Greater Mankato Growth surveyed their business members on the LGA issue. Of the 124 businesses that responded 69% felt that LGA should either be maintained or increased, while 31% felt it should either be reduced or eliminated.

CGMC would like to thank Greater Mankato Growth and its President and CEO Jonathan Zierdt for engaging Mankato area businesses in this important policy discussion. The full survey results and the subsequent letter that was sent to area legislators can be seen on Greater Mankato Growth’s website at

http://www.greatermankato.com/gmg-lga.php .

Greater Minnesota Mayors and Newspapers Speak Out for First Class Cities

Across Minnesota newspapers and mayors have been speaking out in favor of keeping Local Government Aid for communities that need it whether they are Albert Lea, Cloquet, or cities in the metro including Minneapolis and St. Paul. Numerous papers have published editorials in response to the current House omnibus tax bill that all cities, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth, should be treated fairly when it comes to LGA funding.

The Albert Lea Tribune states that “Cutting LGA for Minneapolis and St. Paul is merely yet another attempt at ending the successful LGA program.”

On April 5, 2011 The Worthington Daily Globe put their take on it, “Should LGA again be cut substantially or disappear outright, the rich will get richer and the poor poorer -and Minnesota’s metro areas, so critical to the entire state, could suffer exponentially.”

When it comes to the distribution of LGA, the CGMC has always believed that all communities should be treated equally through an objective formula, and that those cities with high needs and relatively low tax bases should receive aid, no matter where they are located in the state.

Here is a sampling of editorials from across the state:

Albert Lea Tribune Editorial: Suburbs are like sucker plants (April 4, 2011)

http://www.albertleatribune.com/2011/04/04/editorial-suburbs-are-like-sucker-plants/

Crookston Times: Attack on Twin Cities LGA Bad for Whole State

http://www.crookstontimes.com/news/x230261892/Mayors-Attack-on-Twin-Cities-LGA-bad-for-whole-state

Montevideo American News Guest Commentary: House attack on Twin Cities bad for whole state

http://www.montenews.com/opinions/x1700902769/House-attack-on-Twin-Cities-bad-for-whole-state

CGMC Applauds Efforts to Study Sulfate

In 1973, Minnesota adopted a 10 mg/L standard for sulfate released into wild rice producing waters.  Since adoption of the standard, few NPDES permits have contained sulfate restrictions.  As a result of increased interest in mining in Northern Minnesota, regulators have begun again to pay attention to sulfate restrictions.  Municipal wastewater treatment facilities (WWTF) are concerned that as their permits are granted or renewed, they too could be subject to this 10 mg/L standard.   Meeting this standard could mean costly upgrades at the WWTF’s.

The 1973 sulfate regulations are based on limited studies by a single researcher.  Other studies have suggested that wild rice can grow in water containing higher concentrations. Although cities and their WWTF’s are deeply concerned about preserving clean water in Minnesota, they believe standards must have strong scientific backing.  Both the House and Senate omnibus environment bills contain provisions requiring a more in-depth study of how sulfates affect wild rice and loosening the 10 mg/L standard while the issue is being studied.  The CGMC applauds this effort to develop a better understanding of the true effects of sulfates before requiring investment in expensive upgrades that may not be necessary.