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Property Taxes

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. 

The Minnesota Senate tax bill, unveiled this morning, contains a $12 million one-time, one-year increase for Local Government Aid in 2018. This is far less than the $45.5 million increase needed to get LGA back to its 2002 funding level. Greater Minnesota senators need to know that the LGA funding in their tax bill is inadequate!

You can view this LGA run to see how the Senate proposal would impact your city’s LGA.

Take action now!

As a Greater Minnesota city leader, it is important that you contact your senator and urge him or her to push for more LGA funding this session.

Tell your senator that:

  • You and other members of your community want the Legislature to pass a $45.5 million LGA increase this session.
  • With a $1.65 billion state budget surplus and a $900 million Senate tax bill, a $45.5 million LGA increase is reasonable and achievable.
  • You are counting on your senator to support this goal and fight for an LGA increase all the way through the end of the legislative session.

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.

The House Tax Committee introduced its omnibus tax bill on Wednesday. Despite including roughly $1.35 billion in tax cuts, the bill (HF 4, authored by Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston), does not include any increase to Local Government Aid (LGA).

CGMC lobbyist Bradley Peterson testified in front of both the House Property Tax Division and the full House Tax Committee this week. He expressed the CGMC’s disappointment in the proposal, and spoke to the vital role that LGA plays in helping cities provide basic services while holding down property taxes.

The House’s failure to propose an LGA increase comes on the heels of the recent announcement that the state’s budget surplus has risen to $1.65 billion. Nonetheless, despite a flourishing economy and overflowing state coffers, legislators have thus far chosen to prioritize other tax cuts rather than restore LGA to its 2002 funding level.

The Senate’s version of the omnibus tax bill has not yet been released. If you have not contacted your senators about the importance of an LGA increase, please do so immediately. Each of these bills has a long way to go before it reaches the Governor’s desk, and the CGMC will continue to advocate for a substantial increase in LGA funding.

As the pace picks up at the Legislature, senators and representatives continue to consider the CGMC’s proposal for a $45.5 million increase in LGA over the next two years. The Legislature failed to pass a tax bill last session, and LGA funding stayed stagnant as a result. It’s time to urge your legislators to finish their work this session by passing a tax bill that includes fully restoring LGA to its 2002 funding level.

Take action now!
As a Greater Minnesota city leader, it is imperative that you contact your own legislators, as well as the chairs of the Senate and House Tax Committees. Let them know that:

  • You and other members of your community expect them to pass a tax bill this session that includes a $45.5 million increase in LGA.
  • LGA plays a vital role in helping cities provide essential services and hold down property taxes.
  • A $45.5 million increase would bring LGA back up to its 2002 level—and this doesn’t even account for inflation.

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.

HF 672, the CGMC-backed bill to finally return the LGA appropriation to its 2002-funding level, was heard in the House Property Tax Division on Monday.

The bill’s author, Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), spoke out strongly for the need for LGA in Greater Minnesota communities. Glencoe Mayor Randy Wilson testified in support of the bill, noting that LGA helps restrain property taxes and fund much-needed city services. After the hearing, the bill was “laid over” for possible inclusion in the eventual House tax bill.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) also brought forward anti-LGA bills which would make arbitrary cuts to LGA based on policy issues not related to city finances or tax base. Specifically, Rep. Drazkowski introduced bills to cut LGA to “sanctuary cities” and to cities that pass ordinances instituting particular workplace regulations. Rep. Drazkowski also pushed for a bill that would deduct a city’s LGA by the amount it pays in lobbying expenses. CGMC lobbyist Bradley Peterson testified against the bill, noting that it unfairly punishes smaller cities and Greater Minnesota cities. He noted that Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz and Fairmont Councilmember Jim Zarling were planning to testify at the hearing but were unable to attend due to a snowstorm, which highlights why lobbying organizations like the CGMC are needed to be the eyes and ears at the Capitol. For a video of some of the hearing’s discussion, click here.

On Wednesday, the Senate Taxes Committee heard testimony on the $300 million tax plan Governor Dayton proposed last month. The broad-ranging proposal includes a $20 million increase in LGA.  While a $20 million increase would be a step in the right direction, the CGMC’s top priority continues to be restoring LGA to its 2002 funding level, which would require an increase of $45.5 million.

CGMC lobbyist Bradley Peterson testified in front of the committee. Peterson thanked the Governor and legislators for recognizing the vital role LGA plays in allowing cities to provide essential services like fire and police, and helping to hold down local property taxes. However, he made clear to the committee that the conversation on LGA increases should begin at $45.5 million, not at $20 million. He urged the senators to support legislation proposed by Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne) that would fully restore LGA to its 2002 level over the course of two years. Weber’s bill, SF 476, has been referred to the Senate Taxes Committee. The House version of the legislation, HF 672, was introduced by Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), with broad, bi-partisan support.
 
The CGMC will continue to advocate for a substantial increase in LGA funding, and will make clear to the Legislature that the 2017 session cannot be considered a success unless they pass a comprehensive tax bill that includes additional LGA funds.

A PDF version of this press release is available here.

For Immediate Release: Jan. 30, 2017
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

Bill to boost LGA funding generates strong bipartisan support
Rural, urban and suburban legislators sign on to legislation that adds $45.5M to LGA program

ST. PAUL—Under new legislation introduced today, cities across Minnesota could see an increase in the amount of Local Government Aid they receive from the state.

SF 476, authored by Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne), and HF 672, authored by Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), would add $45.5 million to the LGA program over the next two years. This legislation would bring funding for the LGA program back to its 2002 benchmark.

“I want to thank Sen. Weber and Rep. Anderson, and all of the co-authors, for their commitment to ensuring that every community in our state can continue to be a great place to live and work,” said Sara Carlson, mayor of Alexandria and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “LGA is absolutely essential to keeping our cities and state strong, and this legislation gives it a much-needed boost.”

The bill is notable for its wide mix of co-authors representing districts in every corner of the state.

In addition to Sen. Weber, the Senate bill has four co-authors (the maximum number allowed in that body): Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona), Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester), Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) and Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis).

In the House, which has no limit on the number of co-authors, chief author Rep. Anderson is joined by 17 others: Rep. Keith Franke (R-St. Paul Park), Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), Rep. Clark Johnson (DFL-North Mankato), Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent), Rep. John Poston (R-Lake Shore), Rep. Tama Theis (R-St. Cloud), Rep. Matt Grossell (R-Clearbrook), Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia), Rep. Jason Rarick (R-Pine City), Rep. Ben Lien (DFL-Moorhead), Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth), Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park), Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls), Rep. Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley), Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul) and Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis).

“The fact that this bill has attracted legislators from both political parties and all parts of the state – rural, urban and suburban – just goes to show how important LGA is,” Carlson said. “It can be a real challenge for lawmakers to find common ground these days, but it’s clear that there is strong bipartisan support for LGA.”

Securing an LGA increase has been the top priority for the CGMC for the past two years. The Legislature last increased funding for LGA in 2014, but the overall state appropriation has not kept up with inflation and still lags behind where it was 15 years ago. If the Legislature does not pass a tax bill with an LGA increase this year, the total amount of LGA cities receive will remain frozen.

“LGA allows cities to provide important services and keep property taxes in check,” Carlson said. “With rapidly rising costs, we cannot afford another year of stagnant LGA. We hope the Legislature will support this legislation to help strengthen cities across Minnesota.”

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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A PDF version of this press release is available here.

For Immediate Release: Dec. 5, 2016
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

Greater Minnesota city leaders urge Governor Dayton to address tax, bonding bills in December special session

ST. PAUL—With a sizable state surplus announced on Friday and continuing discussions between key state lawmakers regarding the imminent need to respond to concerns about MNsure, city leaders in Greater Minnesota are renewing their call for Governor Dayton to schedule a special session this month.

“The time is ripe for a special session,” said Sara Carlson, mayor of Alexandria and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “Something needs to be done quickly about health insurance, and a special session would provide an opportunity to also take action on the tax and bonding bills that failed to pass last session.”

Carlson noted that communities across the state are coping with the negative effects caused by the lack of state action on taxes and capital investment.

“Many cities are facing property tax increases, due in large part to the fact that LGA has remained stagnant while costs continue to go up,” she said. “Without a bonding bill, communities are unable to proceed with important construction projects that are key to improving infrastructure and bringing economic growth.”

The tax bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support in the Legislature but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Dayton due to a drafting error last spring, included a $20 million increase in Local Government Aid (LGA), as well as additional tax relief for farmers, businesses and students. The Legislature also came close to an agreement on a bonding bill which included millions of dollars for infrastructure needs statewide, including $133 million for grant and loan programs that help cities pay for expensive upgrades to their water treatment facilities. However, the bonding bill failed to pass by the end-of-session deadline.

“The Governor and Legislature can get a positive start on the new year by holding a special session now,” Carlson said. “Fixing MNsure and addressing the unfinished business on taxes and bonding would send a positive message that they can work together and do what needs to be done to help communities and families all across the state.”

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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.

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.