ACTION ALERT – Thank Governor Walz for making LGA a budget priority

Gov. Tim Walz made good on his promise to support Local Government Aid (LGA) when he unveiled his budget recommendations today. The Governor’s budget proposal includes a $30.5 million increase in LGA, which is the amount needed to bring the program back to its 2002 level. Restoring LGA to the 2002 funding level is the top priority for the CGMC this session, so we are excited to have the Governor’s support.

The Governor’s budget proposal for LGA is encouraging, but there is still a long ways to go until the state budget is finalized. It is vital that we let the Governor know we appreciate his efforts and encourage him to keep up the momentum on LGA.

Take action now! Contact Governor Walz as soon as possible and let him know how important LGA is to your community and thank him for including the $30.5 million LGA increase in his budget recommendations.

Contact info for Gov. Walz

  • Send an email using this online contact form
  • Call the Governor’s Office’s at 651-201-3400 or toll-free at 800-657-3717
  • Mail a letter to:
    Office of Governor Tim Walz 
    130 State Capitol
    75 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
    St. Paul, MN 55155

Questions? If you have any questions about LGA or the legislative session, please contact Bradley Peterson at bmpeterson@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1911.

CGMC President: Governor’s budget proposal makes key investments in Greater Minnesota

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 Governor Tim Walz’s budget proposal:

“The Governor’s budget proposal makes key investments that will go a long way toward strengthening Greater Minnesota communities.

“City leaders have long been seeking to bring the LGA program back up to its 2002 high-water mark, and the Governor’s proposal would finally get us there. We’re grateful that Gov. Walz recognizes the vital role LGA plays in making sure that all Minnesota communities can continue to provide the same great opportunities to work, raise a family and start a business. We’re hopeful the Legislature will follow the Governor’s lead to restore funding for this critical program.

“I also want to thank the Governor for acknowledging other important issues that impact Greater Minnesota. Not a day goes by when I don’t hear from a constituent about the need for better roads, so it’s encouraging that Gov. Walz is exploring ways to put additional revenue into our state transportation system. Child care is another issue that in recent years has emerged as one of the top impediments to economic growth in rural communities. I’m glad to see that the Governor’s budget plan includes funding to help address this need.

“I look forward to joining other city officials to work with Gov. Walz, legislative leaders and our local legislators to make sure that Greater Minnesota’s priorities continue to be a major focal point of discussions and are hopefully included the final budget.”

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News Release: City leaders optimistic as lawmakers introduce bipartisan legislation to boost LGA funding

For Immediate Release
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com
PDF version

ST. PAUL—City officials are hopeful that bipartisan legislation introduced today in the Minnesota Legislature will give a long-awaited boost to the state’s Local Government Aid (LGA) program.

SF 1304/HF 1102, led by chief authors Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne) and Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora), aims to increase LGA funding by $30.5 million, the amount needed to bring the program back up to its 2002 high-water mark. The proposal has generated strong bipartisan support from numerous Republican and Democrat co-authors who represent rural and metro districts.

“As former city officials turned state legislators, Sen. Weber and Rep. Lislegard have first-hand knowledge of the important role LGA plays in keeping Minnesota’s communities strong.” said Ron Johnson, a member of the Bemidji City Council and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “I want to thank them, as well as the powerful group of co-authors from both parties, for taking on this critical issue.”

Rep. Lislegard, who served as mayor of Aurora until getting elected to the Legislature in 2018, said he is proud to author the LGA bill as one of his first pieces of legislation.

“This legislation is key to helping cities all across the state keep up with maintenance and infrastructure, and provide public safety and other critical services Minnesotans count on while keeping property taxes in check,” Rep. Lislegard said. “Funding from LGA isn’t a want, but is a need for communities like those I represent, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and city leaders to deliver this much-needed boost.”

A former mayor of Luverne, Sen. Weber has long been one of the most active and vocal LGA supporters in the Legislature, having previously authored similar legislation to increase funding for the program.  

“I’m proud to stand with Greater Minnesota communities and take the lead on this important legislation in the Senate,” he said.

The $30.5 million LGA increase is the CGMC’s top priority this legislative session. While LGA has had modest bumps in funding in recent years, Greater Minnesota city officials are optimistic that 2019 will finally be the year that the program is restored to its 2002 high point, before it was plagued by a decade of cuts and stagnant funding.

One reason for the renewed enthusiasm is that Gov. Tim Walz has frequently pledged his support for LGA, both on the campaign trail and since taking office. Speaking at a CGMC event last month, Gov. Walz said he plans to include a $30 million LGA increase in his budget plan, which is anticipated to be unveiled next week.

“LGA really embodies the ‘one Minnesota’ vision that the Governor often mentions,” said CGMC President Johnson, noting that nearly 90 percent of Minnesota cities receive LGA. “Whether you live in the heart of downtown Minneapolis or on the edge of Ortonville, LGA truly is a program that benefits the entire state.”

In addition to the funding appropriation bill, the CGMC is advocating for SF 1305/HF 1101, authored by Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley) and Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL-St. Peter), which would increase LGA funding each year to account for inflation and population growth. Despite the program’s recent appropriation increases, LGA funding is still well below where it should be if it kept up with inflation and population growth.

Rep. Brand, a former St. Peter City Council member, said the bill will help communities stay on top of their growing needs.

“Health insurance premiums, construction materials and — as we’ve sure seen this winter — costs for essential services like snow removal and salting continue to go up year after year,” he said. “Cities are pretty adept at trying to do more with less, but it gets more difficult as LGA fails to keep pace with rising costs.”

Sen. Eken added, “While LGA funding growth has stalled, city costs and service pressures continue to rise. Without adjusting the program for these realities, cities that depend on LGA will struggle to continue making the investments that create a high standard of living and quality of life in Minnesota.”

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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.

Cold weather doesn’t stop the CGMC!

Although many people understandably canceled their registrations due to the subzero temperatures and icy road conditions, more than 50 city leaders from across the state still made the trek to St. Paul for Legislative Action Day on Wednesday. Thank you to everyone who helped make our annual “day at the Capitol” a success!
 
The day kicked off with a welcome from CGMC President and Bemidji City Councilor Ron Johnson and a legislative update from CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson, followed by presentations on our top issues (LGA, water infrastructure, child care, the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program and transportation) by CGMC staff.
 
After the crowd enjoyed lunch and listened to Gov. Walz’s speech, they spent the rest of the afternoon meeting with legislators. Although much of the state was shut down due to the weather, offices at the State Capitol remained open. The cancellation of most of the legislative committee hearings that day ended up working out in our favor as CGMC members were able to get more time than usual to talk to their legislators about important issues. A copy of the lobbying packet that was given to CGMC members and shared with legislators can be found here.
 
As is CGMC tradition, the day was capped off with a legislative reception and dinner at Mancini’s, where a bipartisan mix of more than 70 legislators representing both rural and urban districts mingled with CGMC members over a meal of steak or walleye.
 
You can see more photos from Legislative Action Day here.

Speaking to CGMC city leaders, Gov. Walz touts plan for $30M LGA boost

While speaking to CGMC members during our Legislative Action Day luncheon on Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz pledged his support for a $30 million increase to the Local Government Aid program. He said he intends to include the boost in his budget proposal, which is slated to be unveiled Feb. 19.
 
The full video of the Governor’s Legislative Action Day speech can be viewed on our CGMC YouTube channel here.
 
Gov. Walz told the crowd of more than 50 city leaders who braved the frigid temperatures to attend the Legislative Action Day festivities that “community prosperity” will be one of his top three budget priorities, along with education and health care. Noting that he trusts city officials to make the decisions that are best for their communities, Gov. Walz said that restoring LGA to it 2002 funding level is an important element in ensuring that all parts of our state thrive.
 
In addition to LGA, Gov. Walz emphasized that he wants to pass a comprehensive transportation package this session that focuses on highways and bridges in Greater Minnesota. He reiterated his push to increase the gas tax to help pay for transportation needs. He also expressed the need for better broadband statewide, adding that “we don’t have time to wait until 2025” for improved access.
 
Several media outlets covered the Governor’s remarks to our members. You can read their articles at the links below:

In addition, the Mankato Free Press published an editorial in support of Gov. Walz’s plan to increase LGA funding.

Legislative Action Day still on as scheduled

Despite the cold temperatures, we are still planning to go ahead as scheduled with our Legislative Action Day events this Wednesday, Jan. 30. In order to minimize time spent outdoors, we have hired a coach bus to provide ongoing shuttle service that afternoon between the Best Western Capitol Ridge (the location of morning activities and lunch) and the State Capitol complex. Shuttle service will also be available between the Best Western and Mancini’s in the evening. The full schedule for the day is as follows:

10 a.m. – Registration begins at Best Western Capitol Ridge (161 St. Anthony Ave., St. Paul)
10:30 a.m. – Legislative update and messaging
12 p.m. – Lunch with speaker Gov. Tim Walz
1-5 p.m. – Attendees lobby and meet with legislators at the Capitol complex (note: members are responsible for scheduling their own meetings)
5 p.m. – Reception at Mancini’s Char House (531 7th St. W, St Paul)
6 p.m. – Dinner with legislators at Mancini’s

Of course, we also want to make sure that everyone stays safe and uses their best judgment. If you are signed up to attend Legislative Action Day and decide that you want to cancel your registration, please let us know by contacting Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or 651-225-8840. We will not charge you the registration fee or, if you have already paid, we will issue a refund.

Note about parking at the Best Western Capitol Ridge: All CGMC members will be able to park in the lot for free. The access code to get in and out of the parking lot is 137#. The code will also be posted at the hotel.

Bills to fund water infrastructure introduced at the Legislature

For Immediate Release
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com
PDF version

CGMC calls on legislators to pass $128M in funding for critical clean water infrastructure projects

ST. PAUL—As communities across the state grapple with aging water treatment facilities and rising construction costs, Greater Minnesota city leaders are on calling on the Legislature to pass a bonding bill this year that includes $128 million for clean water infrastructure.

“Cities are the front line of protecting our lakes and rivers from pollution and making sure residents have clean water,” said Ron Johnson, a member of the Bemidji City Council and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “We are proud to play a role preserving Minnesota’s clean water legacy, but cities simply don’t have the resources to make the necessary improvements to their water facilities without assistance from the state.”

A bipartisan bill introduced today at the Minnesota Legislature aims to keep up with the growing demand for state funding to help cities offset the costs to upgrade and rebuild water treatment plants and other clean water infrastructure. SF 587/HF 411, authored by Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) and Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin), provides $128 million in general appropriation bonds to the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) for water infrastructure grant and loan programs available to cities.

“We’re thankful that Sen. Dahms and Rep. Poppe are stepping up to the plate to address the dire need for more funding for water infrastructure,” Johnson said. “Cities across the state—and especially in Greater Minnesota—will benefit from this legislation.”

The funding allocated under SF 587/HF 411 is especially critical this year as several cities have been forced to put important projects on hold after funding approved by the Legislature in 2018 hit a major snag. The bonding bill signed into law last spring included $59 million for the PFA programs; however, a group of nine environmental groups initiated a lawsuit against the state challenging the funding mechanism used in the bill. As a result of the lawsuit, money that many cities were anticipating is now in limbo.

The $128 million funded under SF 587/HF 411 is the amount needed to keep up with the growing demand for PFA grants and loans and cover the amount that has been indefinitely held up due to the lawsuit.

“The longer we have to wait for funding, the more expensive our project becomes,” said Little Falls Mayor Greg Zylka, whose city is among those affected by the funding delay.

Zylka said Little Falls was slated to receive a $7 million grant to upgrade its treatment plant to reduce pollutants in wastewater that flows into the Mississippi River. Without the state grant, the entire $22 million project cost would fall on city residents and businesses.

Little Falls is not alone. Austin, Marshall and Mountain Lake are also near the top of the project priority list and were hoping to receive funding through the 2018 bonding bill. In total, more than 300 cities in Minnesota currently have water infrastructure projects in the works. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, more than $5 billion is needed over the next 20 years for water and wastewater infrastructure.

“Cities need help now – and that need is only going to grow as time goes on,” Zylka said. “The Legislature must pass funding this year with the full $128 million request.”

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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.

Join city leaders from across the state at CGMC’s Legislative Action Day

Registration is now open for the CGMC’s Legislative Action Day 2019!

Our annual “day at the Capitol” event will be held Wednesday, January 30, 2019 in St. Paul. Legislative Action Day is always a great opportunity to build connections between local officials and legislators and advocate for the priorities of Greater Minnesota cities. To attend, please go to greatermncities.org/LAD19 to fill out the online registration form. The cost is $70 per person, and attendees may pay online or be invoiced later. Please register by Jan. 21.

The day will kick off at 10:30 a.m. with a brief legislative update followed by lunch featuring a yet-to-be-determined speaker (we have extended an invitation to Governor Tim Walz and are currently awaiting his response). Members will then spend the afternoon meeting with their legislators at the House and Senate offices (members should make their own appointments for meetings with legislators between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. that day). The daylong event concludes with a legislative reception and dinner at Mancini’s Char House & Lounge that evening. The full agenda and venue information can be found on this Legislative Action Day flyer.

For those who want to spend the night in St. Paul, a block of rooms is reserved for the CGMC for the nights of Jan. 29-30 at the Best Western Plus Capitol Ridge ($139+tax, call 651-227-8711 to book). The deadline to book a room under the block is Jan. 11. 

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

CGMC President: Strong budget surplus gives Walz, legislators opportunity to boost LGA

For Immediate Release
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

Below is statement from CGMC President and Bemidji City Council Member Ron Johnson regarding today’s announcement that Minnesota’s budget surplus has increased to $1.5 billion:

“With the state clearly on solid financial footing, I’m hopeful that Governor-elect Walz and the new Legislature will seize this opportunity to strengthen communities across the state by increasing Local Government Aid. City leaders in Greater Minnesota were encouraged that Walz frequently campaigned on the idea of boosting LGA, and this new budget forecast will allow him to make good on that promise.

“The CGMC’s top priority for the upcoming legislative session is a $30.5 million LGA increase, which is the amount needed to bring the program back up to its 2002 high-water mark. LGA is the most important state program to help cities restrain property taxes and afford essential services like public safety, libraries and snow removal. As city officials, we try our best to craft responsible budgets, but it has been a struggle in recent years as LGA funding has failed to keep pace with rising costs. We are eager to work with Walz and the new Legislature to make an LGA increase a reality this session.”

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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.

Minnesota House and Senate restructure, name committee chairs

Before sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner last week, the new Minnesota House DFL majority announced its committees and chairs for the 2019 legislative session. Most notable for CGMC priorities is that Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth), a longtime advocate for the Local Government Aid program, will serve as chair of the House Tax Committee.

The DFL made a few structural changes relevant to CGMC priorities, including the creation of a Greater Minnesota Jobs & Economic Development Division. The new Greater Minnesota committee will be chaired by Rep. Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona). The new majority also combined the Transportation Finance and Transportation Policy committees. This new joint committee will be chaired by Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis), who also served as transportation finance chair last time the DFL held the House majority. There was also a shake up on the bonding committee, where longtime Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown) will now serve as chair, with former chair Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) moving over to chair a newly created Housing Finance & Policy Division.

Here are a few of the committee chairs most relevant to CGMC’s priorities:

  • Taxes – Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth)
  • Capital Investment – Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown)
  • Environment & Natural Resources Finance Division – Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul)
  • Environment & Natural Resources Policy – Rep. John Persell (DFL-Bemidji)
  • Subcommittee on Water – Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL-Maplewood)
  • Transportation Finance & Policy – Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis)
  • Jobs & Economic Development Finance Division – Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul)
  • Greater Minnesota Jobs & Economic Development Finance Division – Rep. Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona)
  • Government Operations – Rep. Michael Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley)

A full list of House committee chairs can be found HERE. The full membership of these committees will likely be named in mid-December.

The Minnesota Senate also made committee announcements this week. Although the majority party in the Senate has not changed, the departure of Senate President Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) from the Legislature led to some minor shake ups in the committee structure. Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) was chosen to take Fischbach’s place as Senate President, leaving a vacancy in the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee. Taking Miller’s place as chair of that committee will be Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake). Pratt, who has served in the Senate since 2012, chaired the E-12 Policy Committee during the 2017-18 biennium and did not serve on the Jobs Committee during that span.