Category archives
Bonding

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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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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.”

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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.

A PDF version of this press release is available here.

For Immediate Release: Nov. 17, 2016
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

ALEXANDRIA, MINN.—With rural legislators now making up more than 60 percent of the Minnesota House and Senate Republican majorities, city leaders from across Greater Minnesota are calling for a renewed focus on the needs of rural communities.

A bipartisan mix of nearly 100 city officials from throughout Greater Minnesota attended the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities’ (CGMC) annual fall conference this week in Alexandria, where the group set its legislative priorities for the upcoming year. Much of the discussion centered on the notion that after two years of bipartisan gridlock, their communities cannot afford to go another year without an increase in Local Government (LGA) and key investments in infrastructure.

“The election results made it clear that voters in Greater Minnesota wanted to shake things up,” said Sara Carlson, mayor of Alexandria and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “With such a strong rural majority in the House and Senate, it’s time for our state leaders to make rural issues a top priority.”

The CGMC determined that passing two hold-overs from the 2016 legislative session — the failed tax and bonding bills — will be their top priority for the upcoming year.

The 2016 tax bill, which was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Dayton due to a drafting error, included a $20 million increase to the LGA program, which helps cities provide important services and keep property taxes in check. At the CGMC conference, city leaders expressed frustration that the modest increase in last year’s bill did not come into fruition. In 2017, they will advocate for $45.5 million increase in LGA funding, the amount needed to bring LGA back to its 2002 level.

“Cities continue to face rising costs. After three years without a significant LGA increase, city budgets and property-taxpayers are starting to feel the strain,” said Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski, who serves as vice-president of the CGMC.

In addition to fighting for more LGA, city leaders vowed to push for a bonding bill that addresses infrastructure needs in Greater Minnesota. Specifically, they are calling on the Legislature to pass a bonding bill that includes $167 million for grant and loan programs that provide funding for clean water infrastructure.

“There was bipartisan support for funding these programs in the bonding bill last year and we hope that support will continue,” Smiglewski said.

As the CGMC prepares for the start of the legislative session on Jan. 3, 2017, city leaders are hopeful that rural issues will be front and center now that the election gave new power to rural Republican legislators, who now hold key leadership positions in both houses.

“The Republicans won the majority by winning seats in Greater Minnesota,” Carlson said. “It should be a no-brainer that the Legislature will prioritize important programs for rural Minnesota this session.”

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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.

The “Will there be? Won’t there be?” drama about a potential special session of the legislature to address the unfinished bonding bill just got juicier with a press conference this afternoon by Governor Dayton. In his press conference and letter to legislative leaders, the Governor outlined his requirements for a special session.

The Governor also indicated that there are problems with the tax bill that are preventing him from signing it unless the legislature agrees to fixes in a special session. Apparently, there is a drafting error in the bill related to charitable gambling that could result in a $100 million loss of revenue to the state over the next biennium. This loss of state revenue would be “unacceptable” to the Governor. Additionally, the Governor objects to a provision that repeals the Minnesota State High School League exemption from sales tax. The Governor has until Monday to sign the bill, veto it or work out some agreement with the legislature to fix these items. In a letter in response to the Governor, Speaker Daudt indicated a willingness to fix these issues with the tax bill in a special session.

Remember — the $20 million increase in LGA funding that the CGMC fought for this session is included in the tax bill whose fate is now at the mercy of these discussions.

The Governor’s other demands for a special session include objections to earmarks in the bonding bill for transportation, as well as a demand that metro transit, including light rail, be addressed. He also requires that several bonding projects be added the bonding bill, most notably a number of higher ed projects. He is also demanding additional supplemental budget spending, including a reversal of the cuts to the Minnesota Investment Fund and the Job Creation Fund.

We will keep members informed if there is any news about a special session. Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@greatermncities) and Facebook for more up-to-date information.

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

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