Category archives
Bonding

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.)

One week from today is the constitutional deadline for the state Legislature to wrap up its regular session, so you can expect a lot of movement this week on a number of CGMC proposals. For starters, the House is prepared to increase the amount of its bonding proposal from $600 million to $800 million through an amendment in the Ways & Means Committee tomorrow.

CLICK HERE for a spreadsheet of the projects included in the House proposal. Below are a couple of the priorities the CGMC is focusing on. 

Wastewater Infrastructure

The CGMC has been advocating this session for $167 million in bonding funds to go toward wastewater infrastructure funding in three categories: Point Source Implementation Grants; Wastewater Infrastructure Funding; and State Matching for USEPA Capitalization Grants.

Currently, the Senate’s bonding bill has a total of $133.5 million allocated for wastewater, but the House version comes in much lower at $105.3 million. The CGMC will be advocating this week for the House to move closer to the Senate’s position. Our priority will be that the bulk of this increase be in the category of Point Source Implementation Grants. These grants are the most direct way to get funding to our CGMC cities for wastewater projects.

Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program (BDPI)

BDPI is a popular grant program for Greater Minnesota cities that has been beneficial to a number of our members. Due to its popularity, however, the fund will be depleted if no bonding bill passes this year. This session, the CGMC sought to replenish the program with a $15 million bonding allocation.

Currently, both the Senate and House versions of the bonding bill contain $12 million for the program. While we will continue to advocate for a higher number, $12 million is a good amount that will provide funds for much needed projects around the state. The CGMC will be lobbying to ensure this number either grows or goes no lower than it currently is as the bill heads toward final passage.

Stay tuned!

CGMC updates and Action Alerts will come more frequently now that the Legislature is in the home stretch. To stay up to date on all the action at the legislature, follow the CGMC on Twitter and check out the CGMC website regularly.

If you have any questions, please email us at CGMC_Communications@flaherty-hood.com.

For Immediate Release: May 11, 2017
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.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.”

###

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. 

Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester), chair of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, introduced legislation this week that revives the bonding bill that failed at the end of the 2016 session. Sen. Senjem’s bill, SF 210, appears to include all of the projects that were part of the final iteration of the 2016 bill. You can view all of the projects here. The Senate Capital Investment Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill Tuesday.

This is good news for Greater Minnesota cities, as the bill contains funding for several important initiatives including clean water infrastructure, the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) grant program and numerous projects for individual cities. However, as we have seen before, just because a bill is introduced does not guarantee it will pass — or that it will pass in its original form. We will keep you posted on the bonding bill as the session progresses.

A PDF version of this press release is available here.

For Immediate Release: Jan. 5, 2017
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

Rural voters felt left out and left behind — now is the time for action to strengthen Greater Minnesota

ST. PAUL—As new and returning lawmakers convene in St. Paul for the first week of the 2017 legislative session, city leaders from Greater Minnesota are urging them to heed the messages that rural voters sent when they cast their ballots last November.

“One major theme that came out of the election is that voters in rural Minnesota – and other rural areas throughout the country – feel left behind,” said Bradley Peterson, executive director of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC), during a conference call with members of the press this morning. “Residents in Greater Minnesota want strong communities and opportunities for their families and businesses. They are sick of having their needs swept under the rug; they want to be part of the narrative.”

For city officials like Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson (who serves as president of the CGMC), Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski and Morris City Manager Blaine Hill, being “part of the narrative” means the Legislature must finally tackle – and pass – legislation that addresses the needs of their communities. The three city leaders joined Thursday’s conference call, where they outlined the CGMC’s top legislative priorities for 2017.

“With a GOP-led House and Senate and a DFL governor, we have no illusions that it will be easy to pass legislation this year,” Carlson said. “That is why we came up with a fair and reasonable list of priorities that will go a long way to help Greater Minnesota and which we believe will be greeted with strong bipartisan support.”

At the top of the list is a goal that has CGMC has been pursuing for the past two years – a $45.5 million increase in Local Government Aid (LGA), which is the amount needed to bring the program back to its 2002 funding level. With the Legislature’s failure to pass a tax bill two years in a row, LGA funding has been kept stagnant while cities’ costs continue to rise.

“LGA means many different things to Greater Minnesota cities,” Carlson said. “It means being able to afford the basic services our residents expect, like police and fire protection, sidewalks and well-maintained streets. It enables us to provide the kind of quality of life that our residents want and deserve with amenities like parks, libraries and swimming pools. And it plays a critical role in keeping local property taxes in check.”

The CGMC is also hopeful that lawmakers will pass some form of transportation funding this year, an issue that has proven to be the source of much controversy at the Legislature in recent years.

“Realistically, we know that passing a comprehensive transportation package this year is a tall order,” Smiglewski said. “We would still like to see a large-scale investment in transportation, but at the very least we think our lawmakers can reach an agreement to pass some much-needed funding for city streets and the Corridors of Commerce program.”

The CGMC is seeking $369 million for Corridors of Commerce, which aims to reduce bottlenecks and barriers to freight on the state’s highways. It is also asking the Legislature for $50 million in funding to help cities repair their crumbling streets, an amount that would be divided equally between cities under 5,000 in population (which currently receive no state assistance for street funding) and those over 5,000.

The CGMC also has another holdover from 2017 on its list of priorities: the bonding bill. Specifically, the CGMC is seeking $167 million in bonding dollars for grant and loan programs that help cities pay for upgrades or repairs to their water treatment facilities. Gov. Dayton included this funding in his bonding proposal, which he unveiled yesterday.

“Like LGA and safe streets, clean water is a quality of life issue,” said Hill, whose city – Morris – is among several Greater Minnesota cities that are facing multi-million-dollar costs to build or upgrade their drinking or wastewater plants to meet new regulations and replace outdated infrastructure.

“Clean water is a fundamental need in any community, but the infrastructure costs are extremely high and unaffordable,” Hill continued. “The House, Senate and Governor all supported including funding for clean water infrastructure in the bonding bill last session, and we hope that support amounts to actual dollars this year. We can’t afford to wait any longer.”

Now that the legislative session has begun, Carlson and the other city officials are hopeful that the Legislature will listen to the concerns expressed by residents in Greater Minnesota and finally take action on the key issues that have gone unaddressed for far too long.

“The 2017 legislative session will be a test as to which state leaders have truly heard the messages sent from Greater Minnesota,” Carlson said. “Action on LGA, transportation, bonding and other important issues will show that the Governor and legislators really understand the needs of rural businesses and residents.”

###

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.”

###

Earlier today, Governor Dayton sent a letter to legislative leaders laying out the terms under which he would call a special session to address taxes, bonding and concerns about health insurance costs. We are pleased that the Governor’s proposal includes our top priorities for taxes and bonding:

– A $20 million increase in LGA payable to cities in 2017
– $133 million for clean water infrastructure grant and loan programs
– $12 million for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) Grant Program
– …plus funding for bonding projects in several CGMC member cities

The ball is now in the legislative leaders’ court. If the leaders agree to his terms by this Thursday, the Governor has stated that he will call a special session to be held on Dec. 20.

Take action now!

As a Greater MN city leader, it is imperative that you call the four legislative leaders and your own legislators TODAY and tell them to support Governor Dayton’s special session terms so that Greater Minnesota communities can benefits from an LGA increase and move forward with key construction projects.

Contact info

Questions?

If you have any questions, please contact Bradley Peterson at bmpeterson@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1911.

The Legislature and Governor missed an enormous opportunity in 2016 by failing to pass tax and bonding bills. Without a tax bill, cities will not receive a much-needed $20M increase in LGA. Without a bonding bill, Greater Minnesota communities won’t receive funding for wastewater infrastructure and other important projects. With a recently announced $1.4B surplus, the state is on firm financial footing‒it’s now up to our state leaders to take action.

There are signs that legislative leaders will revisit the 2016 tax and bonding bills in a legislative session soon, which would significantly benefit Greater Minnesota. For more on the CGMC’s position, read this press release.

Take action now!

As a Greater MN city leader, it is imperative that you call Governor Dayton TODAY and tell him:

  • Greater Minnesota city leaders and residents are counting on him to call a special session to pass bonding and tax bills.

Also, contact your current state legislators TODAY and tell them:

  • Join with Greater Minnesota communities in support of a special session focused on passing the tax and bonding bills.

Contact info

Questions?

If you have any questions, please contact Bradley Peterson at bmpeterson@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1940.

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.”

###

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.