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.”
Registration is now open!
The conference will be held Thursday, Nov. 16-Friday, Nov. 17 at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria. To register, fill out this online registration form. Attendees can either pay now via credit card or be invoiced later. (The original deadline to register was Nov. 8, but we are still accepting late registrations.)
CGMC members have been vocal about the needs and concerns affecting their communities. Based on your feedback, our conference agenda touches on a number of critical issues:
- Child care. Marnie Werner of the Center for Rural Policy will kick off the conference by sharing the findings of CPR’s study “A Quiet Crisis: Minnesota’s Child Care Shortage.” She will be followed by a panel discussion featuring economic development experts and child care professionals who will talk about the economic implications of the child care shortage and ways in which city leaders can play a role in developing solutions to this growing problem.
- Broadband. Bill Coleman, president of Community Technology Advisors, will provide a critical perspective on rural broadband challenges and public policy considerations.
- Transportation and the upcoming legislative session. A bipartisan group of legislators will discuss the pros and cons of the 2017 transportation bill and the Legislature’s future plans to address transportation and other key issues.
- Labor and employee relations. Attorney Brandon Fitzsimmons will summarize the legal framework for and moderate a panel discussion with Greater Minnesota city officials on the “productive” and “unproductive” involvement of elected officials in dealing with personnel issues in their city.
- Environmental regulations. CGMC staff will provide an update on the Environmental Action Fund, including legal and regulatory action relating to water quality regulations.
Attendees will also adopt the CGMC’s legislative policy positions and priorities for the 2018 legislative session. Your input helps set the CGMC’s legislative agenda, so it is vital that you attend the conference and share your ideas and opinions!
Please note that attendees are responsible for booking their own hotel rooms. A block of rooms is reserved for the CGMC at a rate of $94 a night. Call Arrowwood at 320-762-1124 to make a reservation.
If you have any questions about the conference, please contact CGMC Communications Director Julie Liew at 651-259-1917 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things are starting to heat up at the Legislature, but lawmakers are still far from reaching agreements on top Greater Minnesota issues like LGA, bonding, transportation, workforce housing and broadband. It’s become apparent that we need to make an extra push in the last few weeks 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 on Wednesday, May 11.
What: CGMC Lobby Day
Who: Elected officials, city staff and other community leaders from across Greater Minnesota
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11
Where: Office of Flaherty & Hood, P.A. (525 Park St., Suite 470, St. Paul) and lobbying at the Senate Office Building and State Office Building
If you have any questions about the May 11 Lobby Day, contact Julie Liew at email@example.com or 651-259-1917.
Register today for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities’ Legislative Action Day 2016! This year’s event will be held Wednesday, March 16. It will kick off with a brief legislative update in the morning, followed by lunch featuring speaker Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (House Speaker Kurt Daudt has also been been invited) at the Flaherty & Hood office in St. Paul. Members will then spend the afternoon meeting with their legislators at the House and Senate offices (members should make their own appointments for meetings with legislators between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. that day). The daylong event concludes with a legislative reception and dinner at Mancini’s Char House & Lounge that evening.
Legislative Action Day is always a great opportunity to build connections between local officials and legislators and advocate for the priorities of Greater Minnesota cities. To RSVP, please fill out this registration form and email it to RSVP@flaherty-hood.com or mail it to the listed address. Please RSVP by March 2.
Below is a guest column by Owatonna Mayor Thomas Kuntz and Glencoe Mayor Randy Wilson, both of whom serve on the CGMC Board of Directors. As of Dec. 10, the column has appeared in the Rochester Post-Bulletin, Brainerd Dispatch, Faribault Daily News, Northfield News, Owatonna People’s Press, Marshall Independent, Winona Daily News and the Worthington Daily Globe.
Republican Mayors: House Republicans need to reverse course and support LGA
By Thomas Kuntz and Randy Wilson
As 2015 winds down and we prepare to welcome a new year and a new legislative session, the time has come for us to speak out. As mayors of cities in Greater Minnesota—and as Republicans—we have waited more than a year for the new House Republican majority to show leadership on a key issue affecting communities across Greater Minnesota: Local Government Aid (LGA).
However, the only message House Republicans have sent on LGA has been far from a positive one. Last spring, the House—with support from every rural Republican—passed a tax bill that would reduce funding for the LGA program by $84 million. This is in stark contrast to the Senate’s version of the tax bill, which includes a $45.5 million increase in LGA funding—the amount needed to get the LGA program back to its 2002 benchmark level.
Minnesota had a nearly $2 billion surplus last session (and it was recently announced that the current surplus remains just as high), which makes it all the more unbelievable that House Republicans voted to cut funding for a program that is the cornerstone of many Greater Minnesota cities. The House Republicans’ stance is wrong for LGA and wrong for Minnesota.
We thought the days of LGA being a political football were behind us. As rural mayors and Republicans ourselves, we can’t fathom why the House would threaten the LGA program like this. LGA helps cities pay for essential services like police and fire protection and street repairs, as well as important quality-of-life amenities like parks and libraries. For many Greater Minnesota cities, LGA is the difference between being a thriving attractive community and being a hollowed out ghost town.
While cutting $84 million out of the LGA program when Minnesota has a significant budget surplus is unjustifiable in its own right, the House’s method of doing so is downright dangerous to the future of the entire program.
The proposed $84 million in cuts are targeted solely at the “first class” cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. The House GOP’s argument for the cuts is that LGA “was never intended” for Minneapolis and St. Paul, that they get “too much” LGA and that they don’t need it because of their large tax bases.
These arguments are completely unfounded. The original 1971 statute on LGA specifically refers to how Minneapolis and St. Paul’s share of aid is calculated. Since the beginning of the program, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth have received a fair share of LGA funding under a formula that is based on a city’s need and tax base. In fact, the percentage share of LGA going to those cities has actually decreased in recent years.
You may be wondering why two mayors from Greater Minnesota are defending Minneapolis and St. Paul. Shouldn’t we be happy that the House is going after the giants rather than us little guys? The fact is that if successful, the House’s attack on LGA severely undermines a program that is vital to many Greater Minnesota communities. If the House GOP succeeds in cutting LGA from the first-class cities, what’s to stop our cities from being on the chopping block next?
We are given hope by the fact that there is still time for the House Republicans to change direction on LGA. They have six months, from now until the end of the legislative session, to show their support for Minnesota cities and the families and businesses who reside in them. It’s time for legislators who say they support LGA and Greater Minnesota communities to start showing it.
State officials announced today that Minnesota’s budget surplus has increased to nearly $1.9 million, up almost $900 million from the previous budget report released a few months ago. You can read more about the surplus and lawmakers’ response in this article from Forum Communications.
In response to the surplus announcement, CGMC President and Ely City Councilor Heidi Omerza released the following statement to the media this afternoon (click here for a PDF version):
“Today’s announcement that the state’s economic recovery has produced a nearly $2 billion surplus is good news for Minnesota. It is important that our lawmakers take this opportunity to position our entire state for continued growth and long-term stability by making strategic investments in local government aid, broadband expansion, workforce housing, job training and other critical needs for Greater Minnesota.
Communities, families and businesses in all parts of the state will be able to reap the benefits of an even stronger economy if lawmakers seize this opportunity to make smart investments in key areas.”
Registration is now open for the CGMC Fall Conference! To register, please fill out this registration form and submit it electronically or mail it to the listed address. (Note: If you have trouble opening the interactive form on your computer, please choose the option to “open with a different viewer.”)
We have a great program lined up! Since it will be just days after the election, the event will kick off with an election re-cap in which we will explore the results from a Greater Minnesota perspective. That session will be followed by a transportation panel discussion featuring legislators who are leaders on the issue. Later in the afternoon, policy expert and former gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner will discuss his study titled “Finding the Voice for Rural Minnesota,” which explores Greater Minnesota’s role and influence in the state’s decision-making process. That evening, attendees will join members of the League of Minnesota Cities-Metro Region group for a social hour reception, followed by a dinner featuring veteran WCCO Political Reporter Pat Kessler as the keynote speaker. Kessler will share his insight and observations from his 30 years of experience covering Minnesota politics, as well as provide advice on how interest groups like the CGMC can stay relevant and be effective in shaping public policy.
On Friday morning, the CGMC will hold a membership meeting in which members will review and vote on the CGMC’s 2015 policy positions, as well as receive updates on the recent legal challenge to MPCA water quality standards and other CGMC initiatives.
The CGMC has reserved a block of rooms at the Ramada Plaza for $105 (plus tax). The rate is guaranteed until Oct. 30. Attendees are responsible for making their own hotel reservations. Call the Ramada Plaza at 612-331-1900 to make reservations.