Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to the CGMC’s Action Alert last week by contacting the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) with your comments about the proposed changes to the Corridors of Commerce project selection scoring process. It is your willingness to speak up and get involved that makes the CGMC an effective advocate for Greater Minnesota.
The CGMC submitted its comment letter to MnDOT on Dec. 20. The CGMC is particularly concerned about two aspects of the draft scoring system that could disadvantage some Greater Minnesota projects.
First, while MnDOT observed a 50-50 funding split between Greater Minnesota in the metro in 2013 and 2015, it is now considering moving away from the even funding split in response to pressure from metro-area interests. With the majority of the state’s lane miles located in Greater Minnesota and numerous projects awaiting funding, we strongly oppose any efforts that would lessen the amount of funding that goes to Greater Minnesota projects.
The CGMC’s second concern is a rubric under one of MnDOT’s scoring criteria that would give additional points to corridors that connect to the metro over those that connect Greater Minnesota cities to one another. The CGMC does not agree that highway projects should have a lower chance of being funded solely because they do not connect to the Twin Cities. There are numerous ways to distinguish between important highway projects, and MnDOT has included many of them in its draft scoring system. We believe these are sufficient without geography having to enter into the equation.
MnDOT’s public input period ended Wednesday. Here is the agency’s tentative timeline for the rest of the Corridors of Commerce process:
- Dec. 21 to Dec. 31, 2017 – Review and approve final process
- Jan. 15 to Feb. 2, 2018 – Public recommendation period
- February to March 2018 – Project evaluation and scoring
- End of March 2018 – Project award announcement and release of final scores for all projects
We will continue to update CGMC members on important dates and actions you can take to help vital Greater Minnesota transportation corridors compete for funding. If you have any questions, please contact CGMC transportation lobbyist Shane Zahrt at email@example.com.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is currently designing the project selection process it will use to direct the spending of $400 million in bonding and cash that the 2017 Legislature appropriated to the Corridors of Commerce program.
Since it was created in 2013, Corridors of Commerce funding has been split 50-50 between Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area, and has funded vital expansion and safety projects in both regions. However, because of pressure from the metro area, MnDOT is considering lowering Greater Minnesota’s share of the funding. MnDOT is also proposing a scoring system that would favor corridors that lead through the metro over those that connect Greater Minnesota cities to one another.
MnDOT is taking public comment on the proposed process through this Wednesday, December 20th. CGMC will be submitting a formal comment letter, but it is important that individual city leaders weigh in as well.
Take action now!
As a Greater Minnesota city leader, it is important that you contact MnDOT as soon as possible and urge them to:
- Maintain the 50-50 split between Greater Minnesota and the metro area for Corridors of Commerce funding, as has been used in previous funding cycles and was understood throughout the 2017 legislative process would remain intact.
- Reject a scoring system that allows more points for corridors that run through the metro area over those that connect Greater Minnesota cities.
- Recognize that roads that connect Greater Minnesota communities to one another are just as important as those that connect to the Twin Cities.
More information on MnDOT’s draft scoring process can be found here: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/corridorsofcommerce/
Comments MUST be submitted to Patrick Weidemann of MnDOT at firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, December 20.
If you have any questions about Corridors of Commerce or MnDOT’s draft scoring process, please contact CGMC transportation lobbyist Shane Zahrt at SAZahrt@flaherty-hood.com or (651) 295-1123.
Thank you to everyone who attended the CGMC Fall Conference last week at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center. More than 100 city leaders representing 50 cities attended the conference — a record attendance!
The conference kicked off Thursday afternoon with a presentation by Marnie Werner, acting director of the Center for Rural Policy, on their study titled “A Quiet Crisis: Minnesota’s Child Care Shortage.” You can watch video of her presentation here and read her Power Point presentation here.
After Werner’s presentation, we delved further into the issues surrounding Greater Minnesota’s child care shortage with a panel discussion featuring Nancy Jost, early childhood coordinator for West Central Initiative; Tim Penny, president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation; Jessica Beyer, business development specialist for First Children’s Finance; and Amanda Benda, director of Little Huskies Daycare Center & Preschool in Jackson, Minn. The discussion was moderated by Dan Dorman, executive director of the Greater Minnesota Partnership. Each panelist provided a unique perspective on the issue and offered suggestions on ways city leaders can be more involved in developing solutions. You can watch the panel discussion here.
Broadband was also an important topic at the conference. Bill Coleman, president of Community Technology Advisors and a consultant for the Blandin Foundation, informed attendees about where broadband access stands in Greater Minnesota and outlined the economic impact of world-class broadband infrastructure. You can watch Coleman’s presentation here and read his Power Point Presentation here.
After Coleman’s presentation, CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson moderated a legislative panel discussion featuring Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), Rep. Ben Lien (DFL-Moorhead) and Rep. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville). The panelists discussed the impact of the 2017 legislative session and plans for 2018. The conversation touched on issues such as transportation, bonding and the ongoing lawsuit between the Legislature and Gov. Dayton.
The afternoon was capped by another panel discussion, this one on the role of elected officials in labor and employee relations. Brandon Fitzsimmons, an attorney with Flaherty & Hood, moderated a discussion featuring Waite Park City Administrator Shaunna Johnson, Alexandria City Administrator Marty Schultz and Moorhead City Manager Chris Volkers in which they talked about the “productive” and “unproductive” involvement of elected officials in dealing with unions and personnel issues.
In the evening, attendees enjoyed a cocktail reception and dinner followed by an entertaining and informative quiz show led by the award-winning Theater of Public Policy. During the show, three teams squared off against each other in a battle to see who knew the most about random Greater Minnesota trivia, the history of LGA and other various topics. To the audience’s surprise, Team Lobbyist (Flaherty & Hood lobbyists Tim Flaherty and Marty Seifert) ultimately bested Team Mayor (Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski and Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson) and Team Administrator (Slayton City Administrator Josh Malchow and Virginia City Administration Britt See-Benes) to take the quiz show crown.
In addition to speakers and presentations, the conference also included a membership meeting on Friday morning during which members discussed and adopted the CGMC’s 2018 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 our 2017 Fall Conference! Please check out the photo gallery on our Facebook page to see pictures from the conference.
For Immediate Release
Nov. 17, 2017
Contact: Julie Liew, email@example.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.”
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.
- Economic Development will meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31. Contact Bradley Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- LGA/Property Taxes will meet at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1. Contact Bradley Peterson at email@example.com.
- Transportation will meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2. Contact Shane Zahrt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Annexation and Land Use will meet at 9 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 3. Contact Elizabeth Wefel at email@example.com.
- Environment and Energy will meet at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Contact Elizabeth Wefel at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Immediate Release: May 11, 2017
Contact: Julie Liew, email@example.com
A PDF version of this press release is available here.
ST. PAUL—With the session deadline looming and little progress thus far on key legislative priorities for rural communities, Greater Minnesota city leaders held a press conference today to caution legislators against repeating last year’s failures on taxes, bonding and transportation.
“Exactly one year ago today, we held a press conference urging legislators to pass an increase in Local Government Aid, a fair and balanced bonding bill and a transportation bill that funds city streets and the Corridors of Commerce program,” said Sara Carlson, Mayor of Alexandria and President of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “Here we are 365 days later and we are still asking for the same things. What does it take for Greater Minnesota’s needs to be addressed?”
Carlson said that rural Minnesota voters sent a strong message in the November election that their needs and concerns had been ignored for too long. At the start of the session, many city leaders were hopeful that Greater Minnesota issues would get more attention this year since rural legislators make up the majority of the Republican caucus in both the House and Senate. However, with less than two weeks left in the session, serious questions remain about the Legislature’s willingness to invest in rural priorities.
At the top of that list is an increase in Local Government Aid (LGA), the state program that provides property tax relief and allows cities of all sizes to have a similar level of services regardless of their wealth. Nearly 96 percent of Greater Minnesota cities, and 89 percent of cities statewide, receive LGA.
The CGMC is seeking a permanent $45.5 million increase in LGA funding, the amount needed to bring the program back to its 2002 level. The joint House and Senate tax bill doesn’t come close to this benchmark — it includes just a $6 million one-time increase for 2018. Under the bill, LGA would revert back to the 2017 funding level the following year.
“The Legislature’s tax bill fails on LGA,” Carlson said. “No state program does more to improve the quality of life and economic competitiveness of Greater Minnesota communities than LGA. I am perplexed as to why our legislators are not investing more into the program.”
Carlson noted that Gov. Dayton has already pledged to veto the tax bill, a decision the CGMC supports. “The Governor should demand a significant and permanent LGA increase in the final tax bill,” she said.
City leaders are also united in their support for a bonding bill this session. For Greater Minnesota cities, the most critical item in this bill is additional money for grant and loan programs that provide funding for wastewater infrastructure.
There is broad bipartisan support for this funding: the Governor’s bonding proposal includes $167 million, while the Senate bill has $133 million and the House bill has $105 million. However, with vastly different ideas about the overall size of the bonding bill — the House bill totals only $600 million, while the Governor’s plan is nearly $1.5 billion — passing a bill could be difficult.
“We cannot wait another year for a bonding bill,” said Austin City Administrator Craig Clark. “Like many cities in Greater Minnesota, we are facing massive costs to repair and upgrade our water treatment facilities. If we don’t receive more financial help, cities have no choice but to pass those costs onto our residents and businesses.”
Another long-standing area of concern is transportation. Although city officials want the state to invest more in transportation — particularly city streets and the Corridors of Commerce program — they cautioned the Legislature and Governor against relying too heavily on the general fund.
“Taking too much general fund money for transportation could have a harmful effect on other important priorities like LGA, education and public safety,” said Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski. “A smart transportation plan that looks out for the long-term success of our state should include a mix of new revenue along with a modest amount of general fund dollars.”
In the waning days of session, the city leaders said they plan to be in frequent contact with their local legislators and other key lawmakers to encourage them to take action on key Greater Minnesota priorities.
“No one wants a repeat of last year,” Smiglewski said, referring to the last-minute failure of several key bills. “Luckily, there is still time for our legislators to make this session a ‘win’ for Greater Minnesota.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-259-1911.
Contact Transportation Committee chairs and urge them to hold hearings on SF 1358/HF 1550 – a bill to fund city streets
As cities continue to fall behind on the maintenance and repairs of their streets, it is crucial that any transportation bill the Legislature passes in 2017 includes funding for city streets!
The CGMC has worked with Sen. Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids) and Rep. Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley) to introduce a bill, SF 1358/HF 1550, that would raise and allocate $50 million a year for city streets. Under the bill, $25 million would go to cities with populations under 5,000 and $25 million would go to cities with populations over 5,000.
However, this important bill has yet to have a hearing in either the House or Senate. With legislative deadlines fast approaching, it is imperative the bill receive hearings in both bodies so that it can proceed this session.
Take action now!
Please contact Senate Transportation Committee Chair Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) and House Transportation Committee Chair Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) and urge them to hold a hearing on SF 1358/HF 1550. Here is an example of an email to the committee chairs:
Dear Sen. Newman and Rep. Torkelson,
As a city leader, I urge you to hold a hearing on SF 1358/HF 1550, which uses general fund money to provide reliable street aid of $50 million/year to cities. This funding is critical to help us catch up on our city street repairs and maintenance. It is vital that any transportation bill that the Legislature passes this year includes funding for city streets. Thank you for stepping up for city streets!
In addition, please contact your own legislators and ask them to support the bill and encourage Sen. Newman and Rep. Torkelson to hold a hearing.
- Call Senate Transportation Committee Chair Scott Newman at (651) 296-4131 or email him at email@example.com
- Call House Transportation Committee Chair Paul Torkelson at 651-296-9303 or 888-727-3891 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Visit http://www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/ to find your legislators’ contact information.
If you have any questions, please contact Carolyn Jackson at email@example.com or 651-259-1928.