Now that most of the snow is melted, temperatures are rising and the legislative session is officially over, it is time to switch gears and start focusing on all of the CGMC’s summer events and activities.
In our annual tradition, in the coming months CGMC staff will be traveling to many of our member cities to update city officials on the legislative outcomes and other accomplishments and activities from the past year. While we are not able to visit all 97 CGMC members, we will be reaching out to many of you soon to set up meetings.
In addition, we have several events coming up that we hope you will be able to attend:
- Labor & Employee Relations Seminars: June 6 in Brainerd and June 13 in New Ulm – These seminars focus on practical and legal solutions for providing services and managing employees in local government. They will provide timely and relevant advice on topics such as employee background checks, administrating family and medical-related leaves, police departments’ unique personnel issues and more. Click here for more information on the seminars. Please register online at greatermncities.org/2019seminar.
- CGMC Breakfast at the LMC Conference: June 27 in Duluth – The CGMC will be hosting a breakfast during the League of Minnesota Cities’ annual conference. CGMC staff members Scott McMahon and Shane Zahrt will be leading a presentation and discussion regarding child care issues in Greater Minnesota. This also serves as a great opportunity to recruit new member cities — please encourage non-CGMC members to attend as well!
- CGMC Summer Conference: July 24-26 in Bemidji – We have a great conference lined up! It will feature presentations and discussion on topics such as “Why Greater Minnesota needs to be a pain in the behind,” housing, innovative job training programs, environmental clean-up, economic development and more, as well as opportunities to explore the beautiful city of Bemidji and learn about some of the great things happening there. Click here to see the conference agenda and hotel information. Please register online at greatermncities.org/summer19.
For more information on all of the CGMC’s conferences and events, please visit our website at greatermncities.org/news/conferences-events.
ST. PAUL—It took years of advocacy by city leaders and a late-night special session to get there, but funding for the Local Government Aid (LGA) program is finally being restored to its 2002 high-water mark.
The tax bill passed by the Legislature in the wee hours of Saturday morning contains a $26 million increase in LGA for 2020, followed by an additional $4 million boost in 2021, bringing total funding for the program to $564 million. The bill is now headed to Gov. Walz’s desk. He is expected to sign it, along with other key budget bills, on Tuesday.
“Our No. 1 priority for this year was to get LGA funding back up to the 2002 level,” said Ron Johnson, who serves as president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) and is a member of the Bemidji City Council. “I’m ecstatic that the Legislature and Governor were able to work together to make that goal a reality. Cities all across the state, and especially in Greater Minnesota, are going to benefit from this important investment.”
This increase has been a long time coming for the nearly 90% of cities in Minnesota who rely on LGA to help pay for city services (such as public safety, street maintenance, parks and libraries) and restrain property taxes. While LGA has received occasional boosts in funding in recent years, cities have still been playing catch-up since drastic cuts to the program in the mid-2000s.
“As city officials, we work hard to keep our city budgets and property tax levies in check, but it is difficult when costs for everything from employee health insurance premiums to construction materials continue to rise,” Johnson said.
“A great thing about LGA is that it gives cities the flexibility to make investments wherever they are most needed,” he added. “With this bump in funding, some cities will be able to hire an additional firefighter or replace a beaten up old snowplow, while others might use the extra LGA to hold down their levies.”
Bradley Peterson, executive director of the CGMC, credited tenacious city leaders, Gov. Walz, House Tax Chair Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth) and other state lawmakers for their hard work in getting the LGA increase through the Legislature this year.
“Successes like this have many parents,” Peterson said, noting that LGA is a prime example of an issue where the divided state government was able to reach a compromise for the good of the state.
In addition to LGA, there were other bright spots for Greater Minnesota in the special session.
The Legislature approved funding to help address the child care shortage in Greater Minnesota, including $750,000 to be divided between the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations for child care provider training and business assistance and an additional $750,000 for child care grants, of which at least 60% must go to Greater Minnesota. It also passed $40 million for rural broadband, $18 million for clean water infrastructure grants, $3.5 million for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program and $1.35 million for the Greater Minnesota Job Training Incentive Program.
However, there were some major disappointments in the session as well.
After legislative leaders were unable to agree on adopting any new revenues for transportation, the Legislature passed a pared down transportation bill that included no funding for small-city streets and no additional funding for the Municipal Street Aid or Corridors of Commerce programs.
And perhaps the biggest disappointment of the session was the failure to pass a bonding bill. Johnson said city leaders were counting on a bonding bill to help pay for critical infrastructure needs such as repairs to wastewater treatment plants and other city facilities, road improvements and new or expanded child care facilities.
“In some ways this was a bittersweet legislative session for Greater Minnesota overall,” Johnson said. “We are pleased with the LGA increase, but the lack of a bonding bill or comprehensive transportation bill means many important projects will have to be pushed aside for at least another year.”
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.
The Legislature is back in session! Governor Walz called a special session for 10 a.m. Friday with the goal of passing the state budget. While the Governor and legislative leaders have expressed preference for a one-day special session, it remains unclear whether it will stretch into the weekend. Throughout the week committee chairs, legislative leaders and nonpartisan legislative staff were hard at work hammering out the final details on the big-ticket budget bills. By Thursday evening most of the conference committees had completed negotiations and released proposed bills that will be voted on by the full House and Senate during the special session.
Here is where things currently stand on the CGMC’s top issues:
- Local Government Aid – The proposed tax bill includes a $26 million increase in LGA for 2020, and an additional $4 million increase the following year, restoring LGA to its 2002 level starting in 2021.This document from MN House Research shows how much LGA each city would receive in 2020 under the bill. In addition, the bill includes a provision that says that no city will receive less LGA in 2020 than they received in 2019.
- Clean water infrastructure – We are waiting to see if our request for $67 million for clean water grant and loan programs will be included in the bonding bill. However, the proposed Legacy bill includes $18 million for the Point Source Implementation Grant Program, which helps cities pay for water infrastructure projects.
- City streets – The proposed transportation bill includes no funding for small-city streets (cities under 5,000 in population) and no additional funding for the Municipal Street Aid program for cities over 5,000 in population.
- Corridors of Commerce – The transportation bill does not include any additional funding for Corridors of Commerce, but it keeps the $25 million/year ongoing appropriation for the program which had been potentially on the chopping block.
- Child care grants – The proposed omnibus jobs bill includes $750,000 to be distributed between the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations (MIFs) for child care provider training and business development assistance. The bill also includes $750,000 for the Department of Employment and Economic Development child care grant program, of which at least 60 percent must go to Greater Minnesota.
- Child care facilities grants – This issue remains up in the air as the Legislature attempts to craft a bonding bill.
- Greater Minnesota Business Development Infrastructure Grant Program (BDPI) – The BDPI program is typically funded mostly through the bonding bill, so we are still waiting to see if it will be included. However, the proposed jobs bill includes $3.574 million ($1.787 million per year for two years) for the program.
- Job training – The jobs bill includes $1.35 million for the Greater Minnesota Job Training Incentive Program.
- Broadband – The agriculture & housing finance bill includes $40 million for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program.
Once the special session has concluded, we will provide more in-depth analysis on how Greater Minnesota priorities fared at the Legislature this year.
After blowing past their own self-imposed deadlines, Governor Walz and legislative leaders House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka finally reached an agreement on the state budget Sunday evening. See their signed agreement.
Although Monday was the final day of the regular session — per the State Constitution — a special session will be required for the Legislature to complete its work and pass bills. Governor Walz and legislative leaders have indicated preference for a one-day special session to be held this Thursday, but the exact timing and duration of the special session are still up in the air.
As all three stated during their joint press conference Sunday evening, the agreement reflects a compromise on all sides with no clear “winner.” The two major sticking points in negotiations were the gas tax (Governor and House wanted a 20 cent increase; Senate wanted no increase) and health care provider tax (Governor and House wanted to extend the 2% provider tax set to sunset this year; Senate wanted to eliminate it). Ultimately, the final agreement included no gas tax increase and a 1.8% provider tax with no sunset.
While there is an agreement on the broad budget numbers, the various conference committees were tasked with hammering out the details by 5 p.m. Monday. Reportedly most of them failed to meet that deadline. There is talk that now the bills will be pulled out of conference committee and the final details will be decided between Governor Walz, legislative leaders and the respective committee chairs.
What does it all mean for Local Government Aid (LGA)?
The prospects for an LGA increase — which, if there is one, will be included in the tax bill — are still up in the air.
The tax bill agreement includes only three specific items: a reduction in the second-tier individual income tax rate from 7.2 percent to 6.8 percent, $20 million for the Minneapolis Employees Retirement Fund and a $50 million reduction in the state general levy, which is a statewide property tax that primarily applies to commercial-industrial property. All other issues were left up the conference committee to decide.
The tax bill was given a $0 target, which means that any increase in tax revenues must be matched by an equivalent reduction in revenues or increase in tax aids and credits (e.g. LGA). Federal conformity, Minnesota’s response to the 2017 federal tax overhaul, will play a significant role in shaping what a final tax bill looks like as the plans put forth by Governor Walz, the House DFL and the Senate GOP all generate additional revenue that could be used to pay for other priorities within the tax bill, such as increases to LGA or an expansion of the Working Family Credit.
After the budget agreement was announced Sunday night, we quickly sent out a news release from CGMC President Ron Johnson reiterating that Greater Minnesota communities are counting on the Legislature to pass a $30.5 million LGA increase this year. The CGMC also sent a letter from Ron to all Greater Minnesota legislators arguing that an LGA increase is necessary to provide balance to the tax bill, because 73 percent of the property tax relief provided by cutting the state general levy will go to property located in the metro.
What about a bonding bill?
Governor Walz and the legislative leaders have agreed to a $500 million bonding bill, which includes $440 million in general obligation bonds and $60 million in housing infrastructure bonds. However, the details of what will actually be included in said bonding bill have yet to be determined. From the CGMC perspective, we are hopeful for dollars for clean water infrastructure (PFA $$$), the Greater Minnesota Business Development Infrastructure grant program and child care facilities grants. Several of our member cities also have important projects vying for funding.
It is important to note that unlike other bills, the bonding bill requires a supermajority to pass. That means that it will not pass in either the House or Senate unless some legislators in both chambers vote across party lines. In comments made to reporters following announcement of the budget deal, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt threw some cold water on the idea of any House Republicans voting for a bonding bill. However, it is quite possible that some House Republicans may choose to break from their party in order to get funding for important projects in their districts.
And CGMC’s child care proposals?
At this point there is no news to report on our two child care priorities: funding for the Minnesota Initiative Foundations (MIFs) for provider training & business assistance and bonding money to build or expand child care facilities. The MIFs proposal is still being considered as part of the omnibus jobs bill, and child care facilities grants are part of the ongoing bonding bill discussions.
Any hope for transportation?
The gas tax was one of Governor Walz’s highest profile proposals this session. He talked about the need for new transportation revenues on the campaign trail and reiterated that commitment the day after his election as governor. This session’s House transportation bill was particularly promising for CGMC priorities. It included new funding for Corridors of Commerce, significant new funding for MSA cities, and a permanent, dedicated funding stream for small cities. When the final budget deal was reached, however, all of those priorities ended up on the cutting room floor.
For cities with populations greater than 5,000, the status quo will hold. With no additional funding coming into the transportation formula, larger cities will not see increases through the municipal state aid formula.
For small cities, the jury is still out, but the path forward is difficult. Without significant new funding for transportation and a relatively small general fund target for transportation, it is difficult to see how the House and Senate come up with a compromise plan that isn’t an abject failure for small-city street funding.
Further, without new funding in the transportation system, significant investments in Corridors of Commerce may not be possible this session. Since it appears that a comprehensive transportation package is now off the table for this year, the CGMC will shift in its focus in the upcoming special session to maintaining the $25 million/year base appropriation for Corridors of Commerce, which the Senate has proposed eliminating. While the Corridors of Commerce program is not perfect and could use some tweaks in the way it scores projects for funding consideration, it remains one of the few mechanisms for funding critical highway projects in Greater Minnesota.
How will the special session play out?
The legislative leaders have hinted at holding a one-day special session on Thursday. Accomplishing that in one day would require suspending the normal procedural rules in each chamber which require action on a bill take place over multiple days. A vote to suspend the rules requires a three-fifths majority, which would require six GOP votes in the House. The House GOP caucus has threatened to vote against such a motion. Failure to suspend the rules means a special session could take several days to finish.
It’s important to note that while there is a global agreement between the Governor, Speaker Hortman and Sen. Gazelka, there are still 199 other legislators to consider — some of whom may not be happy with the terms that were agreed upon or the “cone of silence” that surrounded the negotiations. So while there are just hours until today’s midnight deadline for the regular legislative session, the Legislature’s work remains far from over.
As the special session plays out, CGMC staff will be busy following all the action at the Capitol and continuing to advocate for Greater Minnesota priorities.
If you have any questions, please contact CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-225-8840.
Below is a statement from CGMC President and Bemidji City Council Member Ron Johnson on the state budget agreement:
“I’m pleased to see that the Governor and legislative leaders have come to a bipartisan agreement on the state budget. As lawmakers continue to hammer out the details, I want to reiterate that there needs to be a $30.5 million increase in Local Government Aid in order for this session to be considered a success for Greater Minnesota. This has been our No. 1 priority since the first day of the session and we will continue to lean on our legislators to make it a reality.
“Gov. Walz campaigned on increasing Local Government Aid and leaders in the House have been vocal in their support for boosting the program. As we move into a special session, it is vital that they continue to fight for communities throughout the state and pass a $30.5 million LGA increase this year.”
Negotiations at the Capitol may be going at a snail’s pace (see next article for an update). In fact, with just days remaining in the legislative session, it is more important than ever that city officials speak up on key CGMC legislative issues like Local Government Aid (LGA), child care, clean water infrastructure and transportation.
Earlier this week, we issued an Action Alert in which we encouraged all CGMC members to contact Governor Tim Walz, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa), House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) and your own legislators and urge them pass a $30.5 million LGA increase this year. This remains the CGMC’s top legislative priority. While the CGMC lobbying team has been persistent in advocating for an LGA increase, it is vital that lawmakers continue to hear from you about the importance of LGA and its impact on the strength and vitality of your city.
Also earlier this week, our economic development-focused sister organization the Greater Minnesota Partnership (GMNP) issued its own Action Alert regarding the need to pass legislation to help address the child care shortage. Specifically, the CGMC and GMNP are advocating for two legislative initiatives that aim to increase child care capacity in Greater Minnesota: we are seeking $10 million in bonding for grants to help build or expand child care facilities and $2 million to be divided between the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations for child care business assistance and provider training.
If you have not yet responded to these Action Alerts, please do so ASAP. Session ends May 20, so there is no time to waste.
Registration is now open for the 2019 CGMC Summer Conference, which will be held July 24-26 at the Sanford Center in Bemidji!
During the conference you will:
- Learn about emerging trends and challenges facing Greater Minnesota communities
- Find out how the results of the 2019 legislative session could impact your community — and what legislative issues are on the horizon for 2020 and beyond
- Watch in-depth presentations and participate in discussions on critical issues such as workforce development, housing, environmental clean-up and restoration, and economic development
- Explore the city of Bemidji by taking part in tours and during a city-sponsored reception, dinner and entertainment
- Learn about new services, businesses and organizations at the exhibitors’ tradeshow
- Forge connections with other city leaders from across Greater Minnesota by sharing your ideas, concerns and hopes for the future
See this CONFERENCE AGENDA & VENUE INFORMATION for more detailed information about the 2019 conference.
Please register online at greatermncities.org/summer19. The cost for the three-day conference is $260. The deadline to register is July 17.
The Country Inn & Suites in Bemidji has a block of rooms reserved for CGMC Summer Conference attendees at a discounted rate of $114-$139 (plus tax) per night, depending on room type. Call the hotel at 218-441-4800 to make a reservation. The block closes June 24. Please note that attendees are responsible for their own hotel reservations.
If you have any questions about the conference, please contact Julie Liew at email@example.com or (651) 259-1917
It’s crunch time! With only one week left in the legislative session, Governor Walz and legislative leaders are in the thick of negotiations to determine the next two-year state budget and find common ground on other critical issues. Among the many issues still in limbo is the CGMC’s top priority: a $30.5 million increase in Local Government Aid (LGA).
The House and Governor both included the $30.5 million boost in their budget proposals, but there is no LGA increase in the Senate’s plan. To see how your city would fare under the House and Senate plans, click here.
With the clock winding down, it is more important than ever that city leaders speak up about the importance of LGA and the need for an increase this year.
Take action now!
Contact Governor Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and your legislators TODAY and urge them to agree to a $30.5 million LGA increase this session.
Tell them that:
- You and your community are counting on the Senate, House and Governor to work together to pass a $30.5 million LGA increase this session to finally restore the program to its 2002 level.
- Any meaningful tax bill must include an increase in LGA—the most effective tool the state has for building strong communities in Greater Minnesota.
- Tell your story of the impact LGA has on your community! Share examples of how your city uses its LGA and how your city might utilize an increase.
- Contact Governor Walz using this email form or at 800-657-3717
- Contact Speaker Melissa Hortman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-4280
- Contact Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka using this email form or at 651-296-4875.
- Find contact information for your representative and senator by visiting Who Represents Me?
If you have any questions about LGA or the legislative session, please contact Bradley Peterson at email@example.com or 651-259-1911.
Thank you to all of the CGMC members who joined us Wednesday for our “final push” lobby day and ice cream social. Legislators can be especially busy and elusive this time of year, but our members did a great job of maximizing their time with them and advocating for top CGMC priorities including Local Government Aid, child care, water infrastructure and other bonding priorities, and transportation needs. This CGMC end-of-session priorities handout helped guide their lobbying efforts.
In the afternoon, the CGMC sponsored an ice cream social at the State Capitol — featuring ice cream from Marshall-based Schwan’s — that was well-attended by legislators and legislative staff. It was a successful event that helped bring Greater Minnesota issues to the forefront at this critical time in the legislative session.
Visit our CGMC Facebook page to see more photos from the ice cream social.