CGMC presses need for Governor, Legislature to work together to achieve results for Greater Minnesota

With the Legislature currently on hiatus for the Easter/Passover break, CGMC staff members hit the road this week to meet with editors and reporters in Greater Minnesota to provide an update on our legislative priorities and discuss our hopes heading into the final month of the legislative session. Stops included the newspapers in Hutchinson, Willmar, St. Cloud, Fargo/Moorhead, Fergus Falls and Alexandria. (Here’s an article about our visit to the Fergus Falls Daily Journal.)

At the meetings, we shared this mid-session progress chart, which shows where the Governor, House and Senate each stand on the CGMC’s top priorities including Local Government Aid (LGA), child care, transportation and clean water infrastructure. As this end-of-session handout indicates, we also reiterated that we are calling on the Governor and legislative leaders to work together over the next few weeks to do more than simply pass a “lights on” state budget. We emphasized that in order the 2019 legislative session to be considered a success for Greater Minnesota, the Legislature and Governor must:

  • Pass a tax bill that includes a $30.5 million increase in LGA.
  • Pass a bonding bill that includes $67 million for Public Facilities Authority clean water grant and loan programs, as well as funding for child care facilities, the BDPI program and other infrastructure investments.
  • Pass a comprehensive transportation bill that raises new revenues and provides funding for city streets and the Corridors of Commerce program.

We would like to extend a special thank-you to the local city officials who joined us for some of the media visits: Willmar City Councilor Audrey Nelsen, St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz, Moorhead City Manager Chris Volkers and Alexandria City Administrator Marty Schultz.

Help us make a final push for LGA and other Greater Minnesota priorities!

Although this year’s legislative session is five months long, it’s no secret that the final two weeks of session are especially critical. This is when negotiations really heat up and final decisions are made. As we countdown to the Legislature’s May 20 deadline, it is vital that that you continue to speak up about important CGMC issues such as Local Government Aid, wastewater infrastructure, child care and transportation. To help keep legislators’ attention focused on our top priorities, we invite all Greater Minnesota city leaders to join us for an End-of-Session Lobby Day & Ice Cream Social on Wednesday, May 8. 

The tentative schedule for the day is as follows:

  • 10:30 a.m. – Legislative update and messaging (Room 500 North in the State Office Building, located across the street from the State Capitol)
  • Lunch on your own
  • Afternoon – Meetings with legislators (attendees should make appointments with their own legislators; we may also ask some attendees to participate in additional meetings with key legislators)
  • 2-3 p.m. – Ice cream social with legislators and legislative staff (L’etoile du Nord Vault Room in the Basement of the State Capitol)

Lobby Day is FREE to attend, but we ask that you register by sending an email to Meghan at RSVP@flaherty-hood.com (please include your name, city and position/title).

We hope to get as many city officials to attend as possible! Please share this Lobby Day Flyer and encourage other city officials and staff to join us.

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

House committee backs LGA increase

The House Property and Local Tax Division Report — in effect the division’s omnibus bill — was released Wednesday. The $146.5 million package includes the CGMC’s request for a $30.5 million increase in Local Government Aid (LGA) which would restore the program to its 2002 funding level.

Other notable items in the division’s report include a $30.5 million increase to County Program Aid, expansion of the Homestead Credit Refund and Renter’s Property Tax Refund programs, an extension of aid to cities for contributions to the Public Employee Retirement System and $1 million for cities with border city enterprise zones.

On Friday, nonpartisan staff will lead a walk-through of the bill and division members will hear testimony from the public. Members of the division will have an opportunity to offer amendments to the proposal on Monday. A final report adopted by the division will be sent to the House Taxes Committee for possible inclusion in its omnibus tax bill.

Relevant links:

Apply to host the 2020 CGMC Summer Conference!

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.

We need your help! Tell lawmakers how the child care shortage impacts your community

This legislative session, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and the Greater Minnesota Partnership have teamed up to explore ways to address the child care shortage in Greater Minnesota. 

The child care crisis is a multi-faceted problem with no easy solution, but we strongly believe there are actions the Legislature and Governor can take to help address this issue. This session, our organizations are advocating for two bills that would appropriate a total of $13 million in state funding with the goal of increasing child care capacity in Greater Minnesota. You can read more about the bills in our handout: The Child Care Conundrum.

As the bills make their way through the legislative process, it has become apparent that some legislators do not have a clear understanding of the full scale of this issue and its impact on Greater Minnesota communities. Some metro-area legislators have even told us that they “just aren’t hearing very much” about the problem, at least not as it pertains to economic development in Greater Minnesota.

We know that the child care shortage is indeed a big problem in Greater Minnesota. You have told us about the businesses that won’t expand because there are too few child care providers in your area or the families who opted not to relocate to your city because there is no one to watch the kids while the parents are at work. We need you to share those same stories with our lawmakers.

How you can help:  Write a letter or email to Governor Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka explaining how the child care shortage affects businesses and economic growth in your community. Please send the letter by no later than Thursday, March 28.

Elements to include in the letter or email:

  • Address it to Governor Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (see contact info below).
  • Explain who you are and how you and your city/business/organization are involved in the child care issue.
  • Share how the child care shortage impacts your city/business/organization, with a focus on the economic development aspect.
  • Use specific examples! (i.e. a business that is reluctant to expand in your community, the struggle to keep existing providers or encourage new ones to open a child care business, the local economic impact of parents not being to be in the workforce, etc.)

Contact info:

Governor Tim Walz
130 State Capitol
75 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
Email contact form

Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman
463 State Office Building 
St. Paul, MN 55155
rep.melissa.hortman@house.mn

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka
95 University Avenue W.
Minnesota Senate Bldg, Room 3113
St. Paul, MN 55155
Email form

Send us a copy: Please send a copy of the letter or email to us at CGMC_Communications@flaherty-hood.com.

Enlist others! Share this email with other businesses, organizations and leaders in your area and encourage them to write letters as well.

Let’s make sure no lawmaker can say that they haven’t “heard enough” from Greater Minnesotans about this problem!

If you have any questions, please contact GMNP and CGMC lobbyist Scott McMahon at shmcmahon@flaherty-hood.com or 651-225-1908. Thank you!

Much work remains as legislative session hits halfway mark

As the mid-point of the legislative session approaches, it is time to take a step back and examine the overall big picture.
 
The early milestones of session have been reached. Last month, Gov. Walz proposed an ambitious state budget that raises significant revenue and funds increases in his priorities: health care, education and community prosperity. A $30.5 million Local Government Aid (LGA) increase falls under the “community prosperity” heading. In addition, the Governor proposed a big bonding bill and transportation funding package that would increase the gas tax by 20 cents a gallon (among other revenue raisers).
 
Legislators have been spending significant time over the last several weeks in their respective committees hearing bills of various natures, culminating in the first committee deadline tomorrow, March 15. For the rest of March and into the first week and half of April, the House and Senate will be compiling their budget bills. This is when all of the negotiating positions will really come into focus. The Legislature will go on its traditional Easter/Passover break in mid-April and return in late April and early May for conference committees.
 
If all goes according to plan, the Governor and legislative leaders have sketched out they will have agreement on overall spending targets for the major budget areas by May 6 and conference committees will be done with their work by May 13. The Governor and legislative leaders setting deadlines for themselves is new and admirable. Whether or not the deadline survives the heat of battle remains to be seen.
 
A tax bill (the usual home of any LGA increase) and bonding bill would likely be two of the final things completed this session, which means action on several of the CGMC’s top priorities will go down to the wire.
 
Without a doubt, there will be numerous twists and turns and all along the way — and the CGMC team will be on hand for all of the action. If you have any questions about where things stand in the legislative process, please reach out to CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson at bmpeterson@flaherty-hood.com.

Plan to increase LGA is an investment in strong communities

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.

CGMC bills to boost LGA heard in the House

Local Government Aid (LGA) was the focus of a hearing in the House Local and Property Tax Division on Monday. The CGMC’s two LGA bills, HF 1101 and HF 1102 were on the agenda. Both bills increase the LGA appropriation by $30.5 million and make updates to the formula multipliers. HF 1101 would also peg the LGA appropriation to inflation and population growth so that the appropriation continues to grow over time.

Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora) is the chief author of HF 1102 and spoke to the important role LGA plays in addressing inequities in property tax wealth across Minnesota and how the CGMC’s proposal would improve the long-term stability of the program. He drew on his experience as the former mayor of Aurora and a long-time city councilor. Rep. Lislegard was joined by Eveleth City Councilor Brad Hadrava who told legislators about the rising constructions costs the city faces and how increased LGA will help the city continue its efforts to preserve aging public buildings and address the need for capital improvements.

HF 1101 is sponsored by Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL-St. Peter). At the hearing, he discussed his experience as a city councilor in St. Peter, telling his colleagues that St. Peter used a small increase in LGA to purchase a new tire balancer for the public works department, but that in order for the city to address critical needs funding for LGA must be restored. CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson testified on the annual inflation and population adjustment contained in HF 1101, citing increases in health insurance costs, population growth and an overall steady rise in city costs to underscore the need for LGA to keep pace with inflation.

The division approved both CGMC bills for consideration in a later division report that will be included in the House’s final omnibus tax bill. The two bills were among five before the division that would increase the LGA appropriation by $30.5 million. The division also heard from the Department of Revenue about the restoration of LGA funding in Gov. Walz’s proposed budget.  You can listen to the full Division hearing by clicking this link.

LGA bills up for hearings next week

The House Property and Local Tax Division will hear a wide range of Local Government Aid bills next Monday and Wednesday. This includes the CGMC’s two LGA bills, HF1101 andHF1102, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL-St. Peter) and Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora), respectively. Both bills increase the LGA appropriation by $30.5 million and make updates to the formula multipliers. HF1101 would also peg the LGA appropriation to inflation and population growth so that the appropriation continues to grow over time.
 
In addition to the CGMC’s LGA proposals, the division will also discuss bills that restore the LGA appropriation to its 2002 level, direct additional LGA to specific cities or make tweaks to parts of the LGA formula such as the sparsity adjustment. You can find the full meeting agenda on the division’s webpage.

The hearing is on Monday, March 11 at 12:45 p.m. in Room 5 of the State Office Building in St. Paul. Any bills that are not heard on Monday will be heard on Wednesday, March at 6:45 p.m. in Room 300 South of the State Office Building.  

Categories: LGA

CGMC President: Bill allows essential water infrastructure projects to move forward, but additional funding needs remai

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.”

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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.