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For Immediate Release
Feb. 26, 2018
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com
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Water infrastructure funding bill bolstered by strong bipartisan support
Bill would allocate $167M to state grant & loans programs that help cities pay for critical water infrastructure projects

ST. PAUL—City leaders in Greater Minnesota are lauding legislation introduced today that would boost state funding for grant and loan programs that help cities pay for expensive wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects.

The bill, SF 2668/HF 3122, spearheaded by chief authors Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) and Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), allocates $167 million in state bonding for three key grant and loan programs administered by the Public Facilities Authority (PFA). The proposal has broad bipartisan support, with a wide mix of legislators from both parties and from every corner of the state signed on as co-authors of the legislation. Gov. Mark Dayton has also shown support for the plan by including it in his bonding proposal and touting it again at a Governor’s press conference last week.

“We’re really thankful to have a strong, bipartisan group of lawmakers come together to support legislation that provides funding for water infrastructure,” said Dave Smiglewski, mayor of Granite Falls and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “This is a critical need for communities across the state. Every Minnesotan deserves access to clean water, but cities can’t afford to bear the high construction and technology costs alone.”

The CGMC, which is comprised of 96 cities outside the metro area, has determined that funding for the PFA grant and loan programs is its top bonding bill priority this session.

“Cities have no choice but to upgrade their water facilities and fix broken sewer pipes. Unless they get financial help from the state, these costs all fall on local residents and businesses,” Smiglewski said. “When citizens are hit with water bills that have doubled or tripled, it really puts a strain on the whole community.”

Due to the need to replace aging infrastructure and comply with new, stricter water-quality regulations, the number of cities and sanitary sewer districts currently planning to rebuild or upgrade their drinking water or wastewater infrastructure has jumped in recent years. More than 300 cities, the bulk of which are in Greater Minnesota, currently have projects on the PFA’s Project Priority List which identifies potential wastewater, drinking water and storm water projects that are eligible to receive funding through PFA programs. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has estimated that local governments and the state are facing $5 billion in wastewater infrastructure costs over the next 20 years, while the Minnesota Department of Health estimates it will cost an additional $7.4 billion to upgrade and repair drinking water infrastructure over that same time period.

The legislation introduced today, SF 2668/HF 3122, has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. However, the House Capital Investment Committee will hold an informational hearing on Wednesday to learn more about the state’s water infrastructure needs and costs. City officials from at least two Greater Minnesota cities, Pipestone and Little Falls, are expected to testify about the specific needs facing their communities.

“We are glad that legislators are listening to our concerns and taking steps toward getting more funding for these important projects,” Smiglewski said. “I hope this spirit of bipartisanship will continue and lead to the passage of a bonding bill this year. These projects and our communities can’t wait.”

For more information on this bonding bill proposal and why it is important to Greater Minnesota communities, please see this CGMC Info Sheet.

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The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 96 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.

 

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

CGMC to hold press conference call to address opportunities and dangers facing Greater Minnesota this legislative session
Group to discuss key issues including the state’s response to federal tax reform, Local Government Aid, infrastructure needs and child care shortage

Who:  Dave Smiglewski, mayor of Granite Falls and CGMC president; Ron Johnson, Bemidji City Council member; Jon Radermacher, Little Falls city administrator, and Bradley Peterson, CGMC executive director of the CGM

What:  Press conference via conference call about Greater Minnesota priorities

When:  11 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 15

Call-in details: To receive the call-in number and passcode for the news conference, email Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or call 651-259-1917.

Each fall, CGMC members work together to shape the Coalition’s policy positions for the upcoming legislative session. Policy committees will be convening by conference call in October and early November to draft recommendations which will be discussed and voted on by the full membership at the Fall Conference Nov. 16-17. Serving on a policy committee is a great way to contribute to the work of the CGMC. Please contact the appropriate staff member listed below if you are interested in serving on one or more of the committees. The exact meeting dates and times will be determined soon.

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is now accepting entries for its 11th annual Local Government Innovation Awards (LGIA) to recognize the creative and innovative ways that cities, counties, townships, schools and Native Nations are serving Minnesotans.
 
Submitted projects are evaluated on how they create greater accountability; use incentives, targeting and funding to meet those in need; orchestrate competitive contracting; manage collaboration or consolidation; deploy prevention strategies that eliminate the need for a service or divest current services to the community. The LGIA jury will consider innovation, impact and sustainability of projects when determining the award winners. Up to 20 local government entities will be recognized. The winner in each of the five categories will receive a $5,000 grant and a professional video highlighting their work.
 
Entries for the 2017 LGIA will be accepted until 4 p.m. Oct. 6. Award winners will be recognized at the LGIA Awards Celebration on Dec. 7. For more information, go to http://lgia.umn.edu/.

In July, local and tribal governments throughout Minnesota received a formal invitation to participate in the 2020 Census Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) Program. The LUCA program provides state, local, and tribal governments with the opportunity to review and update the Census Bureau’s address list and formal boundaries. It is the only opportunity cities will get to ensure all housing units, roads and streets in their jurisdictions are accounted for prior to the 2020 Census.

In March 2020, the United States Census Bureau will mail the 2020 Census form to each housing unit for which they have an address. Since the Census is mailed to addresses, not people, Census 2020 results will only be accurate if the Census Bureau has a correct record.

The Minnesota Department of Administration’s State Demographic Center is Minnesota’s liaison with the Census Bureau. State Demographer Susan Brower stresses the importance of LUCA participation for local governments by pointing out that funding for many federal programs is based on population — a local jurisdiction stands to lose funding if every person isn’t counted. Even one missed person could mean as much as $1,530 in lost federal funding each year for programs in areas such as health, transportation, housing and education.

Some jurisdictions may lack the resources to do the LUCA review. In that case, they may arrange with a higher level of government, such as a county, to perform the review. Still, it is important for cities to review and send in their LUCA reservation materials to ensure that their area gets covered.

The deadline to register online to participate is Dec. 15, 2017. Address review materials will be mailed to registered participants in February 2018. Questions about the LUCA Program may be directed to the Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Census Bureau at 844-344-0169 or via e-mail at GEO.2020.LUCA@census.gov or at the Census Bureau website. You may also contact the State Demography Center at 651-201-2770 or demography.helpline@state.mn.us.

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.


Tuesday morning will see the first significant discussion of LGA as the Senate Tax Committee takes up a host of bills on the topic. Most significantly, the committee is hearing SF 476, the CGMC-sponsored bill to increase the LGA appropriation by $45.5 million to get back to the 2002 level. We are very grateful to Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne), the bill’s chief author, and the other co-authors for their support. Our members are encouraged to contact the bill authors and co-authors (in both the House and Senate) to thank them for championing LGA this session. The full list of authors, as well as a link that members can use to email them all at once, is available here.

No action is expected to be taken on the bill at the committee meeting. It will be given a hearing and then “laid over” for possible inclusion in the Senate’s tax omnibus bill. The Senate is also hearing a series of bills intended to fix a couple of LGA formula glitches, including CGMC-supported SF 813, authored by Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center).

The legislative session started Tuesday, and it already appears that not much has changed since the legislature closed out its business after the special session last June. Efforts to fast-track an extension of unemployment benefits failed as the DFL legislators advocated for a “clean bill” that dealt only with the benefits extension, while Republican lawmakers insisted that the benefits extension be linked to a significant reduction in unemployment taxes for businesses.

On Wednesday night, Gov. Dayton gave his annual State of the State address at the University of Minnesota. He sounded largely familiar themes: support for modest spending and perhaps some modest tax cuts, the need for a robust bonding bill focused on clean water initiatives, support for the child care tax credit, and the need for a comprehensive transportation plan.

Republicans were skeptical that even modest spending increases would be appropriate, while at the same time pushing for much more aggressive tax cuts — a move that Governor Dayton claimed would put the state budget on a “fiscal precipice.”

The Dayton Administration appears very serious about protecting what they see as the gains made in stabilizing the state’s fiscal situation. The extent to which House Republicans insist on deep tax cuts versus how far the Governor and Senate Democrats feel they can go will likely be the defining tension of the session.

We’ve been saying for some time that the 2016 legislative session will be fast and furious. As we get closer to the March 8 start date, the calendar is coming into focus as legislative leaders set committee deadlines. While generally considered “inside baseball,” committee deadlines do give a hint to the overall pace of work and intentions of legislative leaders. This year’s committee deadlines can charitably be described as “aggressive.”

The first committee deadline is April 1, a mere three weeks after the start of session. This means that all bills need to receive a hearing in either a House or Senate committee before that date to continue to be considered. The second deadline is just a week after that on April 8; bills that met the first deadline must have a hearing in the opposite chamber by this date. The third deadline is April 21. By this date, any finance and budget bills need to pass the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committees, respectively, and be on the way to the Senate or House floors for action by the full chambers. By this time, each side will have staked out their negotiating positions on any supplemental budget.

What makes this year unusual, however, is that the tax and transportation bills are already in conference committee as a result of last year’s failure to take action on these two items, which means that most of the money on the table is already in play. It is unlikely that the House and Senate will pass new tax and transportation bills, but rather will continue to work off the bills that made it to conference committee last year.

Add on top of this compressed timeline planned legislative breaks around Easter in late March and Passover in late April, and the fact that the Legislature likely won’t work most Fridays, and there is an especially limited time to transact business at the Capitol this session. It is possible that legislative committees may hold hearings before session starts, but other than the bonding committee tours over the last couple of months, there are no indications of much of this kind of activity.

The bottom line is that legislative proposals will need to be refined and lobbying started immediately to have a chance of success in 2016.

The CGMC Summer Conference has  begun! More than 75 mayors, city councilors and city staff members from across Greater Minnesota are currently taking part in the three-day event in Duluth. It started this afternoon with a legislative re-cap led by CGMC staff members and tours of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority and AAR Aircraft Maintenance facility. Tonight, attendees will enjoy a dinner at Greysolon sponsored by the city of Duluth followed by a brewery tour/pub crawl led by Mayor Don Ness. Click here for the full conference agenda.