A printable, PDF version of this report is available here.

With the legislative session just past its half-way point, we thought it would be a good time to check in on some CGMC priorities to see where things stand. The main take away is that nothing is entirely off the table yet and the outcome will depend on what we do to influence negotiations over the next four weeks.

Big Picture
State lawmakers are wrestling with how to use the state’s $900 million surplus while also dealing with leftover business from last session, including a tax bill and a transportation package. This is also a year for a big capital investment bill.

LGA Funding Increase
Last session, the CGMC aggressively pursued a $45.5 million LGA increase to get back to the 2002 funding level. The Senate put this increase into its tax bill, while the House’s version of the tax bill cuts $84 million from the program by reducing the amount of aid that goes to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. Since the tax bill did not pass last year, these two differing positions are still waiting to be hashed out in conference committee. The next couple of weeks will be critical for an LGA increase. Status: Still in Play

Workforce Housing Tax Credit
Like the LGA provision, the CGMC and Greater Minnesota Partnership’s (GMNP) workforce housing tax credit proposal was left in limbo when no tax bill passed last year. The Senate has a version of the CGMC/GMNP legislation in its tax bill, but the House does not. Thus, it sits in conference committee ready to be acted upon. The House did hold a hearing earlier this session on the workforce housing tax credit, and it is one of many ideas being discussed on how to address rural Minnesota’s need for more workforce housing. Status: Still in Play

Bonding for Clean Water Infrastructure
Early this year, Gov. Dayton unveiled his bonding bill proposal which includes $167 million for grant and loan programs to address the soaring costs of water and wastewater infrastructure. The CGMC has been strongly pushing the idea that these programs should be the foundation of any bonding bill passed by the legislature. The idea seems popular with legislators on a bi-partisan basis, but the big question is whether the eventual size of a bonding bill and the need to get votes from a super-majority of the legislature will allow room for a significant investment in clean water infrastructure programs.Status: Still in Play

Greater MN Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) Grant Program
The BDPI program received a strong boost early this year when Gov. Dayton recommended $21 million for it in his bonding proposal. Like bonding for water infrastructure, this is a popular program with legislators, but much will depend on the overall size of the bonding bill. The CGMC has been making the case that the BDPI program, along with water infrastructure, should be one of the building blocks of a good, regionally balanced bonding bill. Status: Still in Play

Transportation
A comprehensive transportation package seems elusive. House GOP leaders are adamant that there will not be new revenue — such as increases in the gas tax or tab fees — for transportation, nor will there be additional money for SW light rail transit, two key priorities for Democrats. While everyone seems to agree that Minnesota needs an additional investment of $6-7 billion over 10 years, there is no agreement on where the money should come from, with DFLers hoping for new revenue and GOPers indicating that it can be done within the context of the state budget surplus and borrowing.

Although the CGMC has been pushing for a comprehensive transportation package with new revenues, it seems unlikely that is going to happen this year. Absent a comprehensive package, the CGMC has been advocating for an additional infusion of money into the Corridors of Commerce program and more money for city streets, including those with populations under 5,000 who have not historically received state funds. Status: Hanging by a Thread

Broadband
Most lawmakers have been focused on the amount of investment for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, with the Governor ($100 million), Senate ($85 million) and House ($40 million) all proposing more money than was allocated last year. While the funding level is important, the CGMC and GMNP have been more focused on the policy aspect by advocating for changes to the program that would allow more cities to be eligible for funding. Current eligibility requirements exclude almost all CGMC cities. The current House jobs bill actually makes it less likely that grant funding will support projects aimed at economic development. The Senate broadband position is much more favorable and would allow more cities to qualify for grants. Despite the favorable Senate position, there are significant industry forces working to undermine the effectiveness of the state’s broadband program when it comes to providing better service to cities that need it for economic development. Status: Hanging by a Thread

What’s Next?
The CGMC will continue to work on these issues over the next few weeks, and we will be calling on our members to help out. Last week, we sent out Action Alerts on broadband the clean water infrastructure bonding. We anticipate that we will send out a couple more Action Alerts over the next several days, including one on the BDPI program and one on transportation.

We also strongly encourage all city officials and community leaders to join us for a free Lobby Day on Wednesday, May 11. The day will include meetings with key legislators to discuss our top priorities, a press conference, and an ice cream social with legislators. It is extremely important that we get as many people to attend as possible! More information is available on this Lobby Day flyer.

As always, we thank all of our members for advancing and promoting Greater Minnesota issues by contacting and meeting with legislators, attending CGMC events, writing letters to the editor, etc. Your efforts are making a difference! Now we just need to make an extra push over the next few weeks to get us over the finish line.

If you have any questions about any of the CGMC’s priorities or the upcoming Lobby Day event, please contact Bradley Peterson at bmpeterson@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1940.