The 2014 legislative session kicked off on Tuesday. With a shorter-than-usual session this year, legislative activity is going to be fast and furious as lawmakers tackle issues such as the bonding bill, minimum wage and taxes. Based on policy positions set at the CGMC’s Fall Conference, the top issues we are advocating for in 2014 include:

  • A $57 million increase in LGA
  • $10 million a year for the Greater Minnesota Jobs Training Program
  • $25 million in the bonding bill for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) Grant Program
  • $100 million for a new Broadband Infrastructure Fund

We hope to accomplish a lot in a short period of time, so we will be calling on CGMC members for their help and cooperation in working toward our goals. Pay special attention to your email inboxes because we will be sending out Action Alerts and other informational materials as the session progresses.

This year the CGMC is partnering with its sister organization, the Greater Minnesota Partnership, for the annual Legislative Action Day. The event will be held on Wednesday, March 5, and will kick off with a brief membership meeting in the morning, followed by lunch with a speaker (likely to be a legislator or government official), meetings with legislators at the Capitol in the afternoon, and a reception and dinner at Mancini’s restaurant in the evening.

Legislative Action Day is always a great opportunity to build connections between local officials and state legislators and advocate for the priorities of Greater Minnesota cities. A registration form can be found here. The form can be submitted electronically or printed out and mailed to the listed address. We hope to see you there!

The Jan. 17 issue of the Greater Minnesota Advocate shared some of the results of the CGMC’s survey of city officials regarding issues such as LGA, city budgets and tax levies. The Advocate also highlighted the city of Waseca and provided some insight into how the city was able to use its 2014 LGA increase to reduce its levy from the previous year and invest in much-needed street repairs and other improvements.

Click here to read the full edition of the Advocate.

The latest edition of the CGMC’s Greater Minnesota Advocate attempts to dispel the belief held by many that Greater Minnesota received more than its fair share in the 2013 Legislative Session. In analyzing the education reforms passed last session, it appears that school districts in the Twin Cities metro area received slightly more funding than ones in rural areas. Further, there seems to be relative parity between Greater Minnesota and the metro area when looking at the changes to property tax aids and credits that were enacted in 2013.

Click here to read the full edition of the Advocate.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Marty Seifert, Dave Thompson, Kurt Zellers and Rob Farnsworth are scheduled to meet with the CGMC Board of Directors on Wednesday, Jan. 15. The meetings, which will be held in separate one-hour increments, will give CGMC members a chance to hear the candidates’ opinions and ideas on issues that are especially important to Greater Minnesota communities, such as local government aid, property taxes, economic development and transportation.

Thompson, a current state senator from Lakeville, will meet with the Board at 10 a.m. He will be followed by Seifert, a businessman and former state representative from Marshall, at 11 a.m. Zellers, a current state representative from Maple Grove, will meet with the Board at noon. Farnsworth, a teacher from Hibbing, will close out the day with a meeting starting at 1 p.m.

The CGMC has extended invitations to all of the GOPers who have declared their candidacy to challenge Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat. Candidate Jeff Johnson met with the CGMC Board at the CGMC Fall Conference in Alexandria in November; the other declared candidate, Scott Honour, is unable to attend on Wednesday and has yet to schedule a meeting with the CGMC.

In continuing the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities’ look into property tax aids and credits, the newest edition of the Greater Minnesota Advocate focuses on the Homestead Credit Refund (HCR) program. The Advocate notes that changes to the HCR program in 2013 resulted in a significant increase in funding for the program. While the majority of HCR dollars currently go to lower and middle income households, recent changes have meant significant increases for households whose income is more than $80,000. Recent trends show that committing more dollars to the HCR program means higher refunds for those in higher income brackets. In addition, the budget forecast from Minnesota Management and Budget, in addition to recent trends, call the efficacy of the HCR program into question.

Click here to read the full edition of the Advocate.

Last weekend, the Star Tribune published an editorial written by CGMC President Randy Wilson in response to criticism over the preliminary levy numbers and cities’ use of the $80 million LGA boost approved by Legislature during the 2013 session. In his editorial, Wilson urges critics (who include some legislators and other policymakers) to see that “most cities have been able to keep property taxes in check while at the same time making their communities stronger” by “restoring critical services that had fallen victim to years of drastic cutbacks.”

You can read Wilson’s entire editorial here.