Greater Minnesota city leaders to hold news conference to urge productive end of session

News Advisory
Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities
Contact: Julie Liew
jlliew@flaherty-hood.com
651-259-1917

Rural voters sent a loud message last fall that they felt left out and left behind. State legislators should be deeply concerned about the lack of progress on rural priorities.

Who: Sara Carlson, Mayor of Alexandria and CGMC President; Dave Smiglewski, Mayor of Granite Falls and CGMC Vice President; Craig Clark, Austin City Administrator, and other Greater Minnesota city leaders

What: Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities Press Conference

When:  11 a.m., Thursday, May 11

Where: Press Conference Room B971, State Capitol basement

NEWS RELEASE: Paltry LGA funding upsets Greater Minnesota leaders

For Immediate Release: May 4, 2017
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

A PDF version of this press release is available here.

ST. PAUL—City leaders in Greater Minnesota are voicing frustration with their legislators this week after the Tax Conference Committee unveiled a tax bill proposal that fails to adequately invest in rural communities.

The tax plan, released Monday night by the joint House and Senate conference committee, includes a meager $6 million increase in Local Government Aid (LGA) funding for 2018. Because it is just a one-time, one-year increase, LGA would revert back to its current funding level in 2019. City leaders argue this low amount does little to address their cities’ growing needs and is especially unacceptable given the state’s current solid financial footing.

“Greater Minnesota is once again left out and left behind in the tax bill,” said Sara Carlson, mayor of Alexandria and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “With a $1.65 billion budget surplus and in the context of a $1.15 billion tax plan, the Legislature can and should do better for LGA.”

An LGA increase is the number one priority for the CGMC this legislative session. The organization is advocating for a $45.5 million increase for the 2018-19 biennium, the amount needed to bring the program back to its 2002 funding level. Since the Legislature has not passed an LGA increase in the past two years, the token $6 million bump in this year’s conference committee tax proposal would not even begin to cover a basic inflationary increase.

“Rural Minnesotans and Greater Minnesota cities should be and will be upset if this LGA situation is not rectified,” Carlson said. “LGA is essential to keeping our communities healthy and our property taxes down. With just over two weeks left in session, now is the time to speak up and let our legislators know that LGA is too important to be ignored. Before the session ends, the Legislature and Governor must come to an agreement on a significant permanent increase.”

###

ACTION ALERT: The tax bill is bad on LGA – Contact your legislators and Governor today!

The Tax Conference Committee unveiled its tax proposal yesterday, and it looks dismal for Local Government Aid.

The bill includes only a $6 million one-time, one-year increase in 2018 and no increase for 2019. This is far below the $45.5 million increase in base funding that is needed to bring LGA back the 2002 level (not even accounting for inflation). This LGA run shows an estimate of how much LGA your city would receive under the conference committee’s proposal, as well as under the other various legislative proposals.

As the Legislature and Governor begin negotiations, now is the time to speak up for your city! With a $1.65 billion state budget surplus and a tax bill that spends $1.15 billion, legislators need to know that their tax bill is simply unacceptable on LGA.

Take action now!

As a Greater Minnesota city leader, it is important that you:

  • Contact your senator and representative as soon as possible and urge them to insist that the tax bill includes a permanent and ongoing $45.5 million increase.
  • Contact Gov. Dayton to thank him for his support for LGA and urge him to continue to fight for more LGA funding in his negotiations with House and Senate leaders.

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.

Common-sense reforms protect your water and your wallet

Below is a guest column by Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams and Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges, who also serve as co-chairs of the CGMC Environment Committee. As of April 28, it is has been published in the Fargo Forum and the Owatonna People’s Press.

Let us be clear: It’s possible to support regulatory reform and the environment at the same time.

Some interest groups, lawmakers and government officials have tried to paint municipal groups seeking to reform Minnesota’s regulatory process as anti-environment and anti-science, greedy penny-pinchers bought and sold by corporate interests. That picture couldn’t be further from the truth.

In actuality, we are city leaders who represent our communities, as well as dozens of others in Greater Minnesota, and are dedicated to protecting our state’s precious waters. Greater Minnesota cities have invested billions in clean water efforts in the last 30 years, and as practical environmentalists we are deeply troubled by some of the recent actions by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

We are advocating for reasonable regulatory reform not because we want to ignore science — to the contrary, we are doing so because we strongly believe that sound science and public input is vital to an effective clean water regulatory framework.

While numerous environmental reform proposals have been introduced this legislative session, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) has determined three top priorities that will help improve the wastewater permitting process and ensure that our limited financial resources are spent wisely to implement regulations that will provide measurable benefits to water quality.

The first reform local government officials are seeking is the ability to request an independent scientific review of MPCA’s application of science through wastewater regulations. When new regulations will require cities to spend billions of dollars to upgrade infrastructure, our citizens and businesses deserve an independent second opinion.

There is currently no meaningful way for cities to obtain an independent scientific review of MPCA’s regulations. In recent years, cities have been forced to enter into litigation when the MPCA has ignored legitimate concerns about the underlying science and its application.

The MPCA should welcome independent peer review of their science because it will confirm that water-quality rules are scientifically sound, help to avoid costly litigation and ultimately improve environmental outcomes.

City leaders also have serious qualms about the MPCA’s habit of imposing water-quality restrictions — under the guise of “policies” or “guidance documents” — that are more stringent than adopted during rulemaking. To address this concern, the CGMC is pursuing legislation that prevents the MPCA from imposing regulations that were not properly adopted through the rulemaking process.

By forcing cities to comply with unadopted rules, the MPCA imposes requirements that have not gone through the proper vetting process and ignores the due process rights of the public. Not only does this practice make it very difficult for cities to strategize and plan for how to adhere to regulations, it also breaks down trust between the MPCA, cities and the public.

The CGMC’s third regulatory reform proposal would extend the public comment period for new city permits to 60 days. This minor change is especially important to small cities where city councils meet less frequently and there are fewer staff members. The current 30-day comment period does not allow enough time for cities to adequately analyze and make decisions about MPCA requirements that could have multi-million effects on their communities.

All three of the CGMC’s top environmental regulatory reform proposals — independent peer review of MPCA science, prohibiting the enforcement of unadopted rules and extending the public comment period — remain in play at the Legislature. The House and Senate deserve credit for putting these provisions in their omnibus environment bill, which is currently being reviewed in conference committee.

We want our legislators and Gov. Dayton to know that we are looking out for the best interests of the constituents we represent and the environment, just like they are. Greater Minnesota city leaders — from along the Red River in the north to the Minnesota River in the south and everywhere in between — are willing to continue to invest money and work with the state to clean and protect our waters. However, recent overreach by the MPCA has resulted in an onslaught of regulations that will be extremely costly to implement and have dubious environmental benefit.

We are hopeful that these common-sense reform measures, which aim to protect our communities’ natural and financial resources, will be signed into law this session.

 

Help us make a final push at the Legislature — Join us for a Lobby Day on May 11!

There are only a few weeks left in the legislative session, but lawmakers are still far from reaching agreements on top issues like LGA, bonding, transportation, workforce housing and environmental regulatory reform. It’s apparent that we need to make an extra push in these remaining days 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 and Ice cream on Thursday, May 11.

The tentative schedule for the day is as follows:

  • 10 a.m. – Legislative status update and messaging (Room 500 South in the State Office Building, located across the street from the State Capitol)
  • 11 a.m. – Press Conference on Greater Minnesota issues (State Capitol Press Conference Room B971)
  • Afternoon – Meetings with legislators (attendees should make appointments with their own legislators; we may also ask some attendees to participate in additional meetings with key legislators)
  • 2-3 p.m. – Ice cream social with legislators and legislative staff (tentatively scheduled to be held in the basement of the State Capitol)

Lobby Day is FREE to attend, but we ask that you RSVP to RSVP@flaherty-hood.com by Tuesday, May 9. Free parking is available at the Flaherty & Hood office located at 525 Park St. in St. Paul, just one block from the State Capitol.

We hope to get as many city officials to attend as possible! Please share this Lobby Day Flyer and encourage other city officials and staff to join us.

If you have any questions, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1917.

It’s time to take action!

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. 

Register Today for CGMC’s Labor & Employee Relations Seminars!

The CGMC has scheduled its 2017 Labor & Employee Relations Seminars for later this spring!  Please mark your calendar for the below date and location that works for you:

  • Thursday, June 1 in Brainerd
  • Thursday, June 8 in New Ulm

The seminar is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with registration beginning at 9:30 a.m.

The seminars focus on practical and legal solutions for providing services and managing employees in local government. They will provide relevant and timely advice on the following topics (and more!):

  • Recruiting and hiring practices
  • Variable pay systems
  • A union’s perspective on negotiations
  • Handling employee groups that can’t get along
  • Updates on settlements, arbitrations and the Legislature

We hope all units of government will send representatives (e.g., managers and administrators, human resources personnel and elected officials) to this valuable program.

Please complete the registration form today as space is limited! You can in send the form by fax (651-225-9088), email (RSVP@flaherty-hood.com) or mail (Flaherty & Hood, P.A., 525 Park St., Suite 470, St. Paul, MN 55103).

For more information, contact Karina Patino at 651-259-1919 or kpatino@flaherty-hood.com.

ACTION ALERT – Urge your senator to fight for more LGA funding!

The Minnesota Senate tax bill, unveiled this morning, contains a $12 million one-time, one-year increase for Local Government Aid in 2018. This is far less than the $45.5 million increase needed to get LGA back to its 2002 funding level. Greater Minnesota senators need to know that the LGA funding in their tax bill is inadequate!

You can view this LGA run to see how the Senate proposal would impact your city’s LGA.

Take action now!

As a Greater Minnesota city leader, it is important that you contact your senator and urge him or her to push for more LGA funding this session.

Tell your senator that:

  • You and other members of your community want the Legislature to pass a $45.5 million LGA increase this session.
  • With a $1.65 billion state budget surplus and a $900 million Senate tax bill, a $45.5 million LGA increase is reasonable and achievable.
  • You are counting on your senator to support this goal and fight for an LGA increase all the way through the end of the legislative session.

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.

Apply to host the 2018 CGMC Summer Conference

The CGMC is currently accepting proposals from cities interested in hosting the 2018 CGMC Summer Conference. Since this year’s conference will be in Fergus Falls, we are seeking a southern or south-central Minnesota city (or group of cities) to host in 2018. This RFP outlines the details involved in being the host city, as well as the proposed conference dates and how to apply. For additional information, please view this sample conference agenda. Proposals are due May 15.

If you have any questions about hosting the summer conference, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com.