The following press release was sent to media outlets throughout the state today. A PDF version is available here.
May 26, 2015
Stakes very high for Greater Minnesota in special session
Without agreements, 2015 could be one of the most disappointing sessions in decades
ST.PAUL—With the Legislature unable to agree on tax or transportation bills, the news Saturday that Governor Dayton decided to veto the environment & agriculture bill and the jobs bill solidified that the 2015 legislative session has been a far cry from the ‘Greater Minnesota session’ that received considerable fanfare at the start of the year.
“Unless the special session results in meaningful progress on rural priorities, this year will be one of the worst sessions ever for Greater Minnesota,” said Heidi Omerza, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) and a member of the Ely City Council.
Funding and policy changes for several top Greater Minnesota priorities had been included in the bills vetoed by the Governor over the weekend. Among the key provisions struck down as a result of the vetoes include funding for grant programs for workforce housing, broadband expansion, public infrastructure and job training and important measures for environmental regulatory reform, all of which had strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate.
Moreover, with the Legislature unable to agree to a tax bill or comprehensive transportation package, other major goals of rural communities such as an increase in Local Government Aid, the establishment of a workforce housing tax credit, and increased and ongoing funding for city streets and the Corridors of Commerce program were also left by the wayside during the regular session.
“With the exception of some money for nursing homes, this really could end up being a do-nothing session for Greater Minnesota,” said Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson, who also serves on the CGMC Board of Directors. “The lack of action is disappointing in any context, but when you consider that the state has a $1.9 billion surplus it is immensely frustrating that the Legislature and Governor haven’t gotten more done for our communities.”
Despite their frustration over the way the last few weeks have played out at the Capitol, Omerza, Carlson and other city leaders remain cautiously optimistic that the Governor and legislators could salvage the session by revisiting key Greater Minnesota issues that had been included in the vetoed or abandoned bills.
“With Governor’s vetoes and the breakdown of negotiations on taxes and transportation, the end of the session was a train wreck,” Omerza said. “At this point, the silver lining is that the special session gives legislators and Gov. Dayton a chance to fix it. There is still time for them to make vital investments in Greater Minnesota’s future.”
A summary of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities/Greater Minnesota Partnership’s initiatives and the legislative actions taken can be found on this chart.