Greater Minnesota city leaders renew push for special session

Published 8:01 am Sunday, July 24, 2016

Greater Minnesota leaders renewed their push for a special session to complete legislative work during the last day of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) Summer Conference in Austin on Friday.

Mayors, city council members and city staff from all over Greater Minnesota called for the Minnesota Legislature to complete the failed tax and bonding bills as they completed the conference, which was held at Holiday Inn Austin Conference Center and The Hormel Institute Wednesday through Friday.

With news that Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders inching closer to an agreement on a special session after they resumed negotiations July 15, CGMC conference attendees were cautiously optimistic that Greater Minnesota needs could still be addressed this year.

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“The regular session was a huge let-down, but there is still a chance for lawmakers to get something positive done,” Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson said in a press release. “Now that special session talks have started up again, we are hopeful that the Governor and legislative leaders can set aside their differences and pass bills that will help communities in Greater Minnesota and throughout the state.”

Carlson was elected president of the CGMC for 2016-17 at the organization’s membership meeting Friday morning.

Also at that meeting, the CGMC adopted a resolution in support of a special session that addresses critical Greater Minnesota needs that had been included in the final versions of the failed bills.

“The tax bill and bonding bill each contained several provisions that would benefit Greater Minnesota,” Carlson said in the release. “If there is a special session, we urge Gov. Dayton and the Legislature to keep focus on top priorities like an LGA increase and funding for water treatment facilities, highways and city streets. These issues remain extremely important to rural communities. We want to make sure they aren’t overshadowed by other matters when the Legislature reconvenes.”

The CGMC’s top priorities for the special session include:

•$20 million increase in funding for the Local Government Aid (LGA) program

•$133.5 million for clean water infrastructure grant and loan programs

•$12 million for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Infrastructure (BDPI) Grant Program, which helps cities pay for public infrastructure needed to encourage private business growth

•$200 million for the Corridors of Commerce program

•$50 million for city streets, divided between cities with populations of 5,000 and above and those with fewer than 5,000 residents.