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This legislative session, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and the Greater Minnesota Partnership have teamed up to explore ways to address the child care shortage in Greater Minnesota. 

The child care crisis is a multi-faceted problem with no easy solution, but we strongly believe there are actions the Legislature and Governor can take to help address this issue. This session, our organizations are advocating for two bills that would appropriate a total of $13 million in state funding with the goal of increasing child care capacity in Greater Minnesota. You can read more about the bills in our handout: The Child Care Conundrum.

As the bills make their way through the legislative process, it has become apparent that some legislators do not have a clear understanding of the full scale of this issue and its impact on Greater Minnesota communities. Some metro-area legislators have even told us that they “just aren’t hearing very much” about the problem, at least not as it pertains to economic development in Greater Minnesota.

We know that the child care shortage is indeed a big problem in Greater Minnesota. You have told us about the businesses that won’t expand because there are too few child care providers in your area or the families who opted not to relocate to your city because there is no one to watch the kids while the parents are at work. We need you to share those same stories with our lawmakers.

How you can help:  Write a letter or email to Governor Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka explaining how the child care shortage affects businesses and economic growth in your community. Please send the letter by no later than Thursday, March 28.

Elements to include in the letter or email:

  • Address it to Governor Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (see contact info below).
  • Explain who you are and how you and your city/business/organization are involved in the child care issue.
  • Share how the child care shortage impacts your city/business/organization, with a focus on the economic development aspect.
  • Use specific examples! (i.e. a business that is reluctant to expand in your community, the struggle to keep existing providers or encourage new ones to open a child care business, the local economic impact of parents not being to be in the workforce, etc.)

Contact info:

Governor Tim Walz
130 State Capitol
75 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
Email contact form

Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman
463 State Office Building 
St. Paul, MN 55155
rep.melissa.hortman@house.mn

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka
95 University Avenue W.
Minnesota Senate Bldg, Room 3113
St. Paul, MN 55155
Email form

Send us a copy: Please send a copy of the letter or email to us at CGMC_Communications@flaherty-hood.com.

Enlist others! Share this email with other businesses, organizations and leaders in your area and encourage them to write letters as well.

Let’s make sure no lawmaker can say that they haven’t “heard enough” from Greater Minnesotans about this problem!

If you have any questions, please contact GMNP and CGMC lobbyist Scott McMahon at shmcmahon@flaherty-hood.com or 651-225-1908. Thank you!

As the mid-point of the legislative session approaches, it is time to take a step back and examine the overall big picture.
 
The early milestones of session have been reached. Last month, Gov. Walz proposed an ambitious state budget that raises significant revenue and funds increases in his priorities: health care, education and community prosperity. A $30.5 million Local Government Aid (LGA) increase falls under the “community prosperity” heading. In addition, the Governor proposed a big bonding bill and transportation funding package that would increase the gas tax by 20 cents a gallon (among other revenue raisers).
 
Legislators have been spending significant time over the last several weeks in their respective committees hearing bills of various natures, culminating in the first committee deadline tomorrow, March 15. For the rest of March and into the first week and half of April, the House and Senate will be compiling their budget bills. This is when all of the negotiating positions will really come into focus. The Legislature will go on its traditional Easter/Passover break in mid-April and return in late April and early May for conference committees.
 
If all goes according to plan, the Governor and legislative leaders have sketched out they will have agreement on overall spending targets for the major budget areas by May 6 and conference committees will be done with their work by May 13. The Governor and legislative leaders setting deadlines for themselves is new and admirable. Whether or not the deadline survives the heat of battle remains to be seen.
 
A tax bill (the usual home of any LGA increase) and bonding bill would likely be two of the final things completed this session, which means action on several of the CGMC’s top priorities will go down to the wire.
 
Without a doubt, there will be numerous twists and turns and all along the way — and the CGMC team will be on hand for all of the action. If you have any questions about where things stand in the legislative process, please reach out to CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson at bmpeterson@flaherty-hood.com.

Below is a column by CGMC President and Bemidji City Councilor Ron Johnson. It has appeared in the Star Tribune, Winona Daily News, Bemidji Pioneer and other newspapers.

“I am preaching to the choir but what I’m asking is for the choir to sing loudly for the next three months.”

Gov. Tim Walz was touting his plan to boost Local Government Aid funding when he said this at a Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) event earlier this year. He told the audience of Greater Minnesota city officials that while he was planning to include a $30.5 million LGA increase in his then-unreleased budget, he was going to need our help to get the proposal across the finish line.

As a Bemidji city councilor and president of the CGMC, I am a proud member of LGA “choir.” I have been warming up my voice and now — with the halfway-point of the legislative session fast approaching — I’m ready to sing.

The average Minnesotan likely knows little about LGA, but it is a key reason why Minnesota consistently boasts a stronger economy and better quality of life than neighboring states. Created in 1971, the LGA program distributes aid to cities using a formula that compares a city’s property tax base to its needs. Its purpose is to ensure that all cities are able to provide a similar level of services regardless of the strength of their tax base. For some cities, LGA constitutes nearly half of their annual budget.

As the Legislature debates the merits of Gov. Walz’s budget proposal and the House and Senate craft budgets of their own, I urge lawmakers to keep the $30.5 million LGA increase in their plans. Here’s why:

LGA benefits all Minnesotans. Approximately 90 percent of Minnesota cities receive LGA — from tiny rural towns to the largest cities. It helps narrow disparities between communities so that every city can provide important services and amenities like public safety, libraries, parks and plowed streets. If you live, work, go to school, visit the doctor or shop in a Minnesota city, chances are you benefit from LGA.

LGA has not kept up with rising costs. The proposed $30.5 million increase would bring LGA funding back to its 2002 highpoint, not counting for inflation. In the ensuing years, costs have gone up for everything from employee health insurance to construction materials. When there is record-breaking snowfall, we can’t leave the streets unplowed. If there is a fire, we need equipment and trained firefighters to put it out. City officials make tough financial decisions every day, but needs do not go away. That struggle is even harder when LGA is underfunded.

LGA helps restrain property taxes. Without LGA, the average city receiving aid would have to increase its property tax rate by more than 65 percent in order to continue to provide the same level of services. LGA also has a proven track record of helping slow the growth of city levies. From 2013 to 2014, the last time there was a significant LGA increase, many communities kept their levies flat or even reduced them.

LGA has bipartisan support. Republican and Democrat legislators have teamed up to sponsor legislation to increase LGA, and their bills have support from rural and urban legislators on both sides of the aisle. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, a Republican, has also voiced support for LGA. In a time when nearly everything has become uber-political, lawmakers should embrace this opportunity to find common ground.

LGA is a small investment with a big payoff. LGA currently represents less than 3 percent of the state budget. The proposed $30.5 million increase is just a fraction of the Governor’s budget proposal. It is a relatively small price to pay to boost a program that has a tremendous impact on cities across the state.

City officials in the 758 Minnesota cities that receive LGA can attest to the integral role it plays in keeping our communities afloat and our state strong. As legislators and the Governor continue the daunting task of creating the state budget, I hope they keep the health and prosperity of our cities in mind by including the $30.5 million LGA increase in the final product.

Local Government Aid (LGA) was the focus of a hearing in the House Local and Property Tax Division on Monday. The CGMC’s two LGA bills, HF 1101 and HF 1102 were on the agenda. Both bills increase the LGA appropriation by $30.5 million and make updates to the formula multipliers. HF 1101 would also peg the LGA appropriation to inflation and population growth so that the appropriation continues to grow over time.

Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora) is the chief author of HF 1102 and spoke to the important role LGA plays in addressing inequities in property tax wealth across Minnesota and how the CGMC’s proposal would improve the long-term stability of the program. He drew on his experience as the former mayor of Aurora and a long-time city councilor. Rep. Lislegard was joined by Eveleth City Councilor Brad Hadrava who told legislators about the rising constructions costs the city faces and how increased LGA will help the city continue its efforts to preserve aging public buildings and address the need for capital improvements.

HF 1101 is sponsored by Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL-St. Peter). At the hearing, he discussed his experience as a city councilor in St. Peter, telling his colleagues that St. Peter used a small increase in LGA to purchase a new tire balancer for the public works department, but that in order for the city to address critical needs funding for LGA must be restored. CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson testified on the annual inflation and population adjustment contained in HF 1101, citing increases in health insurance costs, population growth and an overall steady rise in city costs to underscore the need for LGA to keep pace with inflation.

The division approved both CGMC bills for consideration in a later division report that will be included in the House’s final omnibus tax bill. The two bills were among five before the division that would increase the LGA appropriation by $30.5 million. The division also heard from the Department of Revenue about the restoration of LGA funding in Gov. Walz’s proposed budget.  You can listen to the full Division hearing by clicking this link.

The House Property and Local Tax Division will hear a wide range of Local Government Aid bills next Monday and Wednesday. This includes the CGMC’s two LGA bills, HF1101 andHF1102, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL-St. Peter) and Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora), respectively. Both bills increase the LGA appropriation by $30.5 million and make updates to the formula multipliers. HF1101 would also peg the LGA appropriation to inflation and population growth so that the appropriation continues to grow over time.
 
In addition to the CGMC’s LGA proposals, the division will also discuss bills that restore the LGA appropriation to its 2002 level, direct additional LGA to specific cities or make tweaks to parts of the LGA formula such as the sparsity adjustment. You can find the full meeting agenda on the division’s webpage.

The hearing is on Monday, March 11 at 12:45 p.m. in Room 5 of the State Office Building in St. Paul. Any bills that are not heard on Monday will be heard on Wednesday, March at 6:45 p.m. in Room 300 South of the State Office Building.  

For Immediate Release
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com
PDF version

Below is a statement from CGMC President and Bemidji City Council Member Ron Johnson on the passage of H.F. 80. The bill includes a provision to convert the Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund bonds that were part of the 2018 bonding bill — but have since been tied up in litigation — to general obligation bonds, thus freeing up $59 million in state funding for municipal water infrastructure projects.

“We are elated that Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate worked together to find a meaningful solution that will allow essential clean water infrastructure projects to move forward in Greater Minnesota. As a result of this legislation, numerous cities across the state will be able to proceed with critical water, wastewater and sewer projects that are necessary to help protect Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. We’re hopeful that the passage of this bipartisan bill bodes well for continued efforts by lawmakers to compromise on other important issues this legislative session.”

“While we are pleased that this bill finally opens up the funding that was approved last year, it does not alleviate the massive need for more funding going forward. With the state facing a $5 billion need over the next 20 years for wastewater infrastructure improvements alone, the Legislature cannot shove this issue aside. We urge the Legislature to pass a bonding bill this year that includes the Governor’s request for $67 million for clean water infrastructure grant and loan programs.”

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The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 97 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 and follow us on Twitter @greatermncities.

 

Gov. Tim Walz unveiled a $1.27 billion bonding proposal this week. The package of capital improvements includes $350 million for transportation, $300 million for projects at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State, and $150 million for housing. You can read the full list of proposed projects here.
 
While various CGMC priorities receive funding in the proposal — including the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) Grant Program, wastewater infrastructure programs, and grants to local governments for road and bridge improvements — many of the proposals fall short of what is needed to address the various infrastructure challenges in Greater Minnesota.
 
The Governor proposed $67 million for Public Facilities Authority (PFA) programs: $40 million for the Water Infrastructure Fund, $22 million for Point Source Implementation Grants, and $5 million for the Clean Water and Drinking Water Revolving Funds. In making this proposal, the Governor has assumed that the $59 million in PFA funding which was included in last year’s bonding bill but is currently tied up in a lawsuit will be resolved before this bill moves forward. The CGMC is advocating for legislation that would provide $128 million in funding for the PFA water programs. If the Legislature is able to resolve the dispute over the money that is being held up from last year’s bonding bill, then the Governor’s PFA proposal is only $2 million less than the CGMC’s request.
 
The Governor’s bonding proposal of $3 million for BDPI would likely not be enough to fund the program through FY2021 due to the program’s popularity and high demand for the funds. In order to ensure cities can continue to access this successful program, the CGMC is seeking $20 million in BDPI funding.
 
Gov. Walz’s bonding plan also includes $100 million each for the Local Bridge Replacement Program and the Local Road Improvement Program. While this funding could help cities in Greater Minnesota address critical transportation infrastructure needs, these two programs have often been used to earmark projects in the metro area, leaving little for communities outside the Twin Cities.
 
Following the release of the Governor’s bonding proposal, Senate Capital Investment Committee Chair Dave Senjem (R-Rochester), who has not held a committee meeting this session, said if the Senate were to pursue a bonding bill at all, it would be closer to the $265 million amount included in the state’s November budget forecast. In the House, Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) commented that she would prefer a $3 billion bonding bill, but will put a proposal together closer to half that.  

Gov. Walz has talked openly about his intention to propose a comprehensive transportation package that includes a gas tax increase, tab fee increase and other new revenues for transportation. His administration made good on those promises in Tuesday’s budget release by proposing a package that would result in a net increase in funding by more than $8.5 billion over the next 10 years from a variety of sources. The proposal would undo past statutory dedications of general fund revenues to transportation and replaces them with constitutionally dedicated funding sources.

Here are the major highlights, courtesy of MnDOT:

  • Initiates a 20-cent gas tax increase (phased-in over two years) and indexing the gas tax to inflation (beginning in FY 2023) to raise approximately $6.5 billion over 10 years
  • Increases the registration tax (increased tax rate from 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent and base tax fee from $10 to $45; change the depreciation schedule) to raise approximately $4 billion over 10 years
  • Increases the motor vehicle sales tax from 6.5 percent to 6.875 percent to raise approximately $300 million for roads and bridges over 10 years, with additional funds raised for transit purposes
  • Authorizes $2 billion in trunk highway bonds over eight years starting in 2022
  • Proposes an increase to the Working Family Credit of $100 for each single or head of household recipient and $200 for each married filing jointly recipient to offset gas tax increases for low-income Minnesotans

More information can be found at dot.state.mn.us/transportationfunding/.

What the Walz plan means for city streets

The large increase in revenues flowing through the constitutionally dedicated system will have immediate benefits for Municipal State Aid (MSA) cities—those with a population over 5,000. Cities over 5,000 can find what the budget proposal would mean for them by clicking HERE.

For cities under 5,000, the answer is a little more nuanced. The bill does not currently include funding for the Small Cities Assistance Program, but the administration has communicated to us that they would like to work actively with the Legislature and stakeholders to find a sustainable, dedicated funding source for all cities. The primary reason small cities don’t appear in this proposal is that the Walz Administration chose to avoid putting general fund dollars toward transportation purposes, opting to rely on existing dedicated sources instead. There is not currently a constitutionally dedicated source for small city streets.

What the Walz plan means for highway expansions

While the Walz plan does not mention Corridors of Commerce by name, the total transportation funding package would fund the state’s transportation system at a level that would allow for expansion projects to be addressed in MnDOT’s regular program, not a special program like Corridors. In fact, shortly after the budget release, MnDOT released a list of projects—including some expansion projects—that the agency would intend to add to its 10-year construction plans if this full package is adopted. You can find that project list HERE.

If you have any questions about the Governor’s transportation plan and how it could impact Greater Minnesota communities, please contact CGMC transportation lobbyist Shane Zahrt at sazahrt@flaherty-hood.com.

Gov. Tim Walz made good on his promise to support Local Government Aid (LGA) when he unveiled his budget recommendations today. The Governor’s budget proposal includes a $30.5 million increase in LGA, which is the amount needed to bring the program back to its 2002 level. Restoring LGA to the 2002 funding level is the top priority for the CGMC this session, so we are excited to have the Governor’s support.

The Governor’s budget proposal for LGA is encouraging, but there is still a long ways to go until the state budget is finalized. It is vital that we let the Governor know we appreciate his efforts and encourage him to keep up the momentum on LGA.

Take action now! Contact Governor Walz as soon as possible and let him know how important LGA is to your community and thank him for including the $30.5 million LGA increase in his budget recommendations.

Contact info for Gov. Walz

  • Send an email using this online contact form
  • Call the Governor’s Office’s at 651-201-3400 or toll-free at 800-657-3717
  • Mail a letter to:
    Office of Governor Tim Walz 
    130 State Capitol
    75 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
    St. Paul, MN 55155

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.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com
PDF version

Below is a statement from CGMC President and Bemidji City Council Member Ron Johnson on Governor Tim Walz’s budget proposal:

“The Governor’s budget proposal makes key investments that will go a long way toward strengthening Greater Minnesota communities.

“City leaders have long been seeking to bring the LGA program back up to its 2002 high-water mark, and the Governor’s proposal would finally get us there. We’re grateful that Gov. Walz recognizes the vital role LGA plays in making sure that all Minnesota communities can continue to provide the same great opportunities to work, raise a family and start a business. We’re hopeful the Legislature will follow the Governor’s lead to restore funding for this critical program.

“I also want to thank the Governor for acknowledging other important issues that impact Greater Minnesota. Not a day goes by when I don’t hear from a constituent about the need for better roads, so it’s encouraging that Gov. Walz is exploring ways to put additional revenue into our state transportation system. Child care is another issue that in recent years has emerged as one of the top impediments to economic growth in rural communities. I’m glad to see that the Governor’s budget plan includes funding to help address this need.

“I look forward to joining other city officials to work with Gov. Walz, legislative leaders and our local legislators to make sure that Greater Minnesota’s priorities continue to be a major focal point of discussions and are hopefully included the final budget.”

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