Category archives
News and Events

The CGMC is currently accepting proposals from cities interested in hosting the 2020 CGMC Summer Conference. Since the upcoming 2019 conference will be hosted by the city of Bemidji, we are seeking a  southern or south-central CGMC member city (or group of cities) to host in 2020. 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 Friday, May 24.

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

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.”

###

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.

 

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.”

###

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

ST. PAUL—City officials are hopeful that bipartisan legislation introduced today in the Minnesota Legislature will give a long-awaited boost to the state’s Local Government Aid (LGA) program.

SF 1304/HF 1102, led by chief authors Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne) and Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora), aims to increase LGA funding by $30.5 million, the amount needed to bring the program back up to its 2002 high-water mark. The proposal has generated strong bipartisan support from numerous Republican and Democrat co-authors who represent rural and metro districts.

“As former city officials turned state legislators, Sen. Weber and Rep. Lislegard have first-hand knowledge of the important role LGA plays in keeping Minnesota’s communities strong.” said Ron Johnson, a member of the Bemidji City Council and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “I want to thank them, as well as the powerful group of co-authors from both parties, for taking on this critical issue.”

Rep. Lislegard, who served as mayor of Aurora until getting elected to the Legislature in 2018, said he is proud to author the LGA bill as one of his first pieces of legislation.

“This legislation is key to helping cities all across the state keep up with maintenance and infrastructure, and provide public safety and other critical services Minnesotans count on while keeping property taxes in check,” Rep. Lislegard said. “Funding from LGA isn’t a want, but is a need for communities like those I represent, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and city leaders to deliver this much-needed boost.”

A former mayor of Luverne, Sen. Weber has long been one of the most active and vocal LGA supporters in the Legislature, having previously authored similar legislation to increase funding for the program.  

“I’m proud to stand with Greater Minnesota communities and take the lead on this important legislation in the Senate,” he said.

The $30.5 million LGA increase is the CGMC’s top priority this legislative session. While LGA has had modest bumps in funding in recent years, Greater Minnesota city officials are optimistic that 2019 will finally be the year that the program is restored to its 2002 high point, before it was plagued by a decade of cuts and stagnant funding.

One reason for the renewed enthusiasm is that Gov. Tim Walz has frequently pledged his support for LGA, both on the campaign trail and since taking office. Speaking at a CGMC event last month, Gov. Walz said he plans to include a $30 million LGA increase in his budget plan, which is anticipated to be unveiled next week.

“LGA really embodies the ‘one Minnesota’ vision that the Governor often mentions,” said CGMC President Johnson, noting that nearly 90 percent of Minnesota cities receive LGA. “Whether you live in the heart of downtown Minneapolis or on the edge of Ortonville, LGA truly is a program that benefits the entire state.”

In addition to the funding appropriation bill, the CGMC is advocating for SF 1305/HF 1101, authored by Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley) and Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL-St. Peter), which would increase LGA funding each year to account for inflation and population growth. Despite the program’s recent appropriation increases, LGA funding is still well below where it should be if it kept up with inflation and population growth.

Rep. Brand, a former St. Peter City Council member, said the bill will help communities stay on top of their growing needs.

“Health insurance premiums, construction materials and — as we’ve sure seen this winter — costs for essential services like snow removal and salting continue to go up year after year,” he said. “Cities are pretty adept at trying to do more with less, but it gets more difficult as LGA fails to keep pace with rising costs.”

Sen. Eken added, “While LGA funding growth has stalled, city costs and service pressures continue to rise. Without adjusting the program for these realities, cities that depend on LGA will struggle to continue making the investments that create a high standard of living and quality of life in Minnesota.”

###

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.

Although many people understandably canceled their registrations due to the subzero temperatures and icy road conditions, more than 50 city leaders from across the state still made the trek to St. Paul for Legislative Action Day on Wednesday. Thank you to everyone who helped make our annual “day at the Capitol” a success!
 
The day kicked off with a welcome from CGMC President and Bemidji City Councilor Ron Johnson and a legislative update from CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson, followed by presentations on our top issues (LGA, water infrastructure, child care, the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program and transportation) by CGMC staff.
 
After the crowd enjoyed lunch and listened to Gov. Walz’s speech, they spent the rest of the afternoon meeting with legislators. Although much of the state was shut down due to the weather, offices at the State Capitol remained open. The cancellation of most of the legislative committee hearings that day ended up working out in our favor as CGMC members were able to get more time than usual to talk to their legislators about important issues. A copy of the lobbying packet that was given to CGMC members and shared with legislators can be found here.
 
As is CGMC tradition, the day was capped off with a legislative reception and dinner at Mancini’s, where a bipartisan mix of more than 70 legislators representing both rural and urban districts mingled with CGMC members over a meal of steak or walleye.
 
You can see more photos from Legislative Action Day here.

While speaking to CGMC members during our Legislative Action Day luncheon on Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz pledged his support for a $30 million increase to the Local Government Aid program. He said he intends to include the boost in his budget proposal, which is slated to be unveiled Feb. 19.
 
The full video of the Governor’s Legislative Action Day speech can be viewed on our CGMC YouTube channel here.
 
Gov. Walz told the crowd of more than 50 city leaders who braved the frigid temperatures to attend the Legislative Action Day festivities that “community prosperity” will be one of his top three budget priorities, along with education and health care. Noting that he trusts city officials to make the decisions that are best for their communities, Gov. Walz said that restoring LGA to it 2002 funding level is an important element in ensuring that all parts of our state thrive.
 
In addition to LGA, Gov. Walz emphasized that he wants to pass a comprehensive transportation package this session that focuses on highways and bridges in Greater Minnesota. He reiterated his push to increase the gas tax to help pay for transportation needs. He also expressed the need for better broadband statewide, adding that “we don’t have time to wait until 2025” for improved access.
 
Several media outlets covered the Governor’s remarks to our members. You can read their articles at the links below:

In addition, the Mankato Free Press published an editorial in support of Gov. Walz’s plan to increase LGA funding.

Despite the cold temperatures, we are still planning to go ahead as scheduled with our Legislative Action Day events this Wednesday, Jan. 30. In order to minimize time spent outdoors, we have hired a coach bus to provide ongoing shuttle service that afternoon between the Best Western Capitol Ridge (the location of morning activities and lunch) and the State Capitol complex. Shuttle service will also be available between the Best Western and Mancini’s in the evening. The full schedule for the day is as follows:

10 a.m. – Registration begins at Best Western Capitol Ridge (161 St. Anthony Ave., St. Paul)
10:30 a.m. – Legislative update and messaging
12 p.m. – Lunch with speaker Gov. Tim Walz
1-5 p.m. – Attendees lobby and meet with legislators at the Capitol complex (note: members are responsible for scheduling their own meetings)
5 p.m. – Reception at Mancini’s Char House (531 7th St. W, St Paul)
6 p.m. – Dinner with legislators at Mancini’s

Of course, we also want to make sure that everyone stays safe and uses their best judgment. If you are signed up to attend Legislative Action Day and decide that you want to cancel your registration, please let us know by contacting Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or 651-225-8840. We will not charge you the registration fee or, if you have already paid, we will issue a refund.

Note about parking at the Best Western Capitol Ridge: All CGMC members will be able to park in the lot for free. The access code to get in and out of the parking lot is 137#. The code will also be posted at the hotel.

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

CGMC calls on legislators to pass $128M in funding for critical clean water infrastructure projects

ST. PAUL—As communities across the state grapple with aging water treatment facilities and rising construction costs, Greater Minnesota city leaders are on calling on the Legislature to pass a bonding bill this year that includes $128 million for clean water infrastructure.

“Cities are the front line of protecting our lakes and rivers from pollution and making sure residents have clean water,” said Ron Johnson, a member of the Bemidji City Council and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “We are proud to play a role preserving Minnesota’s clean water legacy, but cities simply don’t have the resources to make the necessary improvements to their water facilities without assistance from the state.”

A bipartisan bill introduced today at the Minnesota Legislature aims to keep up with the growing demand for state funding to help cities offset the costs to upgrade and rebuild water treatment plants and other clean water infrastructure. SF 587/HF 411, authored by Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) and Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin), provides $128 million in general appropriation bonds to the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) for water infrastructure grant and loan programs available to cities.

“We’re thankful that Sen. Dahms and Rep. Poppe are stepping up to the plate to address the dire need for more funding for water infrastructure,” Johnson said. “Cities across the state—and especially in Greater Minnesota—will benefit from this legislation.”

The funding allocated under SF 587/HF 411 is especially critical this year as several cities have been forced to put important projects on hold after funding approved by the Legislature in 2018 hit a major snag. The bonding bill signed into law last spring included $59 million for the PFA programs; however, a group of nine environmental groups initiated a lawsuit against the state challenging the funding mechanism used in the bill. As a result of the lawsuit, money that many cities were anticipating is now in limbo.

The $128 million funded under SF 587/HF 411 is the amount needed to keep up with the growing demand for PFA grants and loans and cover the amount that has been indefinitely held up due to the lawsuit.

“The longer we have to wait for funding, the more expensive our project becomes,” said Little Falls Mayor Greg Zylka, whose city is among those affected by the funding delay.

Zylka said Little Falls was slated to receive a $7 million grant to upgrade its treatment plant to reduce pollutants in wastewater that flows into the Mississippi River. Without the state grant, the entire $22 million project cost would fall on city residents and businesses.

Little Falls is not alone. Austin, Marshall and Mountain Lake are also near the top of the project priority list and were hoping to receive funding through the 2018 bonding bill. In total, more than 300 cities in Minnesota currently have water infrastructure projects in the works. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, more than $5 billion is needed over the next 20 years for water and wastewater infrastructure.

“Cities need help now – and that need is only going to grow as time goes on,” Zylka said. “The Legislature must pass funding this year with the full $128 million request.”

###

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.

Registration is now open for the CGMC’s Legislative Action Day 2019!

Our annual “day at the Capitol” event will be held Wednesday, January 30, 2019 in St. Paul. 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 attend, please go to greatermncities.org/LAD19 to fill out the online registration form. The cost is $70 per person, and attendees may pay online or be invoiced later. Please register by Jan. 21.

The day will kick off at 10:30 a.m. with a brief legislative update followed by lunch featuring a yet-to-be-determined speaker (we have extended an invitation to Governor Tim Walz and are currently awaiting his response). 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. The full agenda and venue information can be found on this Legislative Action Day flyer.

For those who want to spend the night in St. Paul, a block of rooms is reserved for the CGMC for the nights of Jan. 29-30 at the Best Western Plus Capitol Ridge ($139+tax, call 651-227-8711 to book). The deadline to book a room under the block is Jan. 11. 

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