The Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) is responsible for recommending how $45.7 million from the Environmental Trust Fund should be spent. The LCCMR received a total of 217 proposals requesting approximately $183 million in funding, and narrowed it down to 101 projects requesting $120.4 million for proposals to present over the next two weeks.
A number of the projects in the running for funding could benefit Greater Minnesota. Proposal 201-G would provide $3 million for local parks, trails and natural areas grants. These grant programs provide funding to projects that do not qualify for Legacy funds and they are a top priority for the Greater Minnesota Parks and Trails organization to which many CGMC cities belong.
In another proposal, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is seeking funding for a wastewater treatment plant optimization pilot program (proposal 035-B) that would seek ways to help facilities perform better and meet stricter standards without costly facility upgrades. CGMC cities would be eligible to apply for the pilot if it is funded.
You can review these projects and others selected here (the projects that will present to the LCCMR are marked with an X).
Please consider reaching out to LCCMR members and ask them to support projects that benefit Greater Minnesota, particularly the two mentioned above. You can find the members’ contact information here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.