Gearing up for a great conference in Fergus Falls!

The annual CGMC Summer Conference will be held Aug. 2-4, 2017 at the Bigwood Event Center in Fergus Falls. During the three-day conference attendees will:

  • Find out how the results of the 2017 legislative session will impact your community
  • Hear legislators’ insights about the ever-evolving relationship between state and local governments
  • See how rural communities are using art as an economic driver and learn about ways your city can take advantage of similar opportunities
  • Enjoy a panel discussion in which members of the MN Capitol Press Corps will discuss the joys and challenges of covering the “legislative circus”
  • Explore the city of Fergus Falls during a city-sponsored dinner and by taking part in one of four city-tour options
  • Learn about new services, businesses and organizations at the exhibitors’ tradeshow
  • Forge connections with other city leaders from across Greater Minnesota by sharing your ideas, concerns and hopes for the future
  • … and much more!

To register for the conference, please fill out this registration form and submit it via email (RSVP@flaherty-hood.com), fax (651-225-9088) or mail (Coalition of Greater MN Cities, c/o Dana Johnston, 525 Park St., Suite 470, St. Paul, MN 55103).You can view the conference agenda here. Please register by July 24. Please note that the CGMC has a block of rooms reserved at the Country Inn & Suites, which is adjacent to the event center, at a discounted rate of $99.99 (plus tax). The deadline to book a room under the reduced rate is July 2. Call the hotel at 218-739-2211 to make a reservation. If you have any questions about the CGMC Summer Conference, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1917.

Broadband Tool

To understand whether your city currently qualifies for grants, click on your city below. Note: Only purple and red areas qualify. Red areas are “unserved,” purple areas are “underserved,” and green areas do not qualify.


Session finally ends, but the games continue

On Tuesday, Gov. Dayton announced he would sign all of the budget bills passed by the Legislature, as well as the bonding and tax bills. Nonetheless, significant controversy continues. Here’s a play-by-play of the final days of the special session, including the CGMC perspective on what may come:

Special session marked by frustration
Before the Legislature had even sent Gov. Dayton all of its budget bills, loud protests rang through the Capitol urging the Governor to “veto everything.” Activists were angered by the perception that Republican leadership in the Legislature had sneaked controversial provisions into a number of bills after reaching an agreement with Gov. Dayton.

Late in the week, it seemed that the tax bill (which includes a $15 million LGA increase) was a possible veto target. Gov. Dayton and other Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, expressed concern over the high cost of the GOP’s tax bill, which comes in at $650 million in the first biennium and grows substantially thereafter. Sen. Bakk urged Gov. Dayton to veto the bill to avoid future deficits.

Legislature tries to tie Dayton’s hands
To pressure Gov. Dayton into signing the tax bill, legislators inserted a provision into a state government funding bill without the Governor’s knowledge. The provision would have withheld all funding for the operation of the Department of Revenue unless Gov. Dayton signed the tax bill. On Tuesday, House Speaker Kurt Daudt acknowledged to reporters the provision was placed in the bill behind Gov. Dayton’s back. When asked if the Governor knew about the provision in advance, Speaker Daudt replied, “He found it eventually.”

Dayton signs budget bills, but responds with his own maneuvers
In response to the Legislature’s maneuver, Gov. Dayton wrote to leaders, “I consider this provision … to be a reprehensible sneak attack, which shatters whatever trust we achieved.” Angered by the perceived slight, Gov. Dayton signed all of the budget bills, but used his line-item veto power to strike any new funding for the operation of the Legislature itself. Gov. Dayton indicated that vetoing the Legislature’s funding was a move to bring legislators back to the negotiating table. Arguing they had not negotiated in good faith, the Governor wants to re-open negotiations on items in the tax bill including tax freezes on cigarettes and the state commercial/industrial property tax.

Rather than return to the negotiating table, the Legislature is likely to sue the Governor on constitutional grounds. The courts will be asked to determine whether the Governor in fact has the authority to use his veto pen to eliminate funding for another, co-equal branch of government.
 
The CGMC perspective
Regardless of how the controversy plays out, provisions in the tax bill that benefit CGMC members cities, such as the $15 million LGA increase and LGA formula fixes, are not likely to be impacted. A lawsuit between branches of government would be on the narrow issue of the Legislature’s funding. In the unlikely scenario that negotiations do restart, they will likely be limited to just a few controversial items. The CGMC will continue to monitor developments.

Final outcome of CGMC priorities
For a brief overview of how the CGMC’s top legislative priorities fared this session, please see this 2017 Outcomes Chart.

Legislature passes tax bill, includes $15M in LGA

The House and Senate, purportedly in agreement with Gov. Dayton, passed a tax bill today that comes in around $648 million for the 2018-19 biennium. The bill includes a permanent $15 million increase in Local Government Aid. To see a preliminary estimate of how your city will do with this increase, click HERE for the CGMC’s updated LGA run.

We want to extend a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who responded to our numerous Action Alerts by contacting your legislators and the Governor about the need for an increase in LGA funding. We were hoping for a larger increase, and we will continue the fight, but it was thanks to your help that this final number is higher than previous proposals from both the House and Senate.
 
Here are links to the SPREADSHEET and BILL LANGUAGE for the tax bill.

ACTION ALERT: Contact Governor, legislative leaders by 3 p.m. TODAY to fight for LGA!

Last night’s legislative deadline sailed by without action on several key bills, including the tax bill (which includes Local Government Aid funding). Governor Dayton immediately called a special session at 12:01 a.m. this morning, which means legislators are continuing their work to pass budget bills. There is still hope for an LGA increase, but we need your help!

Take action now!
If we are going to secure an LGA increase, it is imperative that you contact Governor Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka by 3 p.m. TODAY. Tell them that the final tax bill must include a permanent $20 million increase in LGA per year over the next two years.

Contact info

Questions?
If you have any questions about LGA or the legislative session, please contact Bradley Peterson at bmpeterson@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1911.

Lots of work remains in final day of session

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.)

ACTION ALERT: Urge your legislators to insist on an LGA increase in the tax bill!

Time’s almost up!

We are now entering the final days of the legislative session. As the clock winds down, Governor Dayton and legislative leaders remain deep into negotiations with little to show for it thus far. One of the major issues that remains in flux is the tax bill, which is the bill that deals with Local Government Aid.

Take action now!

If we are going to secure an LGA increase, it is absolutely imperative that you contact your legislator and the Governor TODAY. Tell them:

  • The final tax bill must include a $45.5 million increase in LGA.
  • LGA is the single most important tool cities have to hold down property taxes while still providing essential services.
  • With a $1.65 billion state budget surplus, they should easily be able to secure a $45.5 million increase in LGA — the amount needed to bring LGA back to its 2002 level.

Contact info

Questions?

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

Registration is now open for the CGMC 2017 Summer Conference!

We have a great conference lined up! The annual CGMC Summer Conference will be held Aug. 2-4, 2017 at the Bigwood Event Center in Fergus Falls. During the conference you will:

  • Learn about emerging trends and challenges facing Greater Minnesota communities
  • Find out how the results of the 2017 legislative session could impact your community
  • Hear legislators’ insights about the ever-evolving relationship between state and local governments
  • Explore the city of Fergus Falls during a city-sponsored dinner and by taking part in one of four city-tour options
  • Learn about new services, businesses and organizations at the exhibitors’ tradeshow
  • Forge connections with other city leaders from across Greater Minnesota by sharing your ideas, concerns and hopes for the future

To register for the conference, please fill out this registration form and email it to RSVP@flaherty-hood.com or mail it to the address listed on the form. A full agenda will be available soon.

Please note that the CGMC has a block of rooms reserved at the Country Inn & Suites, which is adjacent to the event center, at a discounted rate of $99.99 (plus tax). The deadline to book a room under the reduced rate is July 2. Call the hotel at 218-739-2211 to make a reservation.

If you have any questions about the CGMC Summer Conference, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1917. We hope to see you there!

CGMC Bonding Update

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.

NEWS RELEASE: Greater Minnesota city leaders demand results from 2017 legislative session

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.”

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