Guest Commentary: State organizations rally for special session

Published 5:08 pm Friday, September 2, 2022

Dear Governor Walz, Lieutenant Governor Flanagan and Members of the Minnesota House and  Senate:

As associations representing the state’s local partners — its school districts, counties, cities, and  townships, encompassing all citizens of our state — we are aware of the significant challenges  and needs local leaders face amid an uncertain economy and the ongoing effects of the  pandemic.

During the 2022 legislative session, school district, county, city, and township leaders  articulated needs for state support, some of which received consideration in bills that were not  finalized before the conclusion of the session. Challenges faced by your peers — our locally  elected officials — are at a high point and state resources play a critical role in the provision of  many local services. There are many issues that need attention now and that should not wait  until 2023.

We know you all understand the significant issues local governments are currently experiencing  and we appreciate the consideration given to local issues and needs during the session. As  partners, we want to work with you on our legislative needs and priorities and why a special  session is so important.

We can provide many examples of pressing local needs. Generally, they include labor shortages  that hinder the provision of public safety services including police and fire staffing, rapidly  escalating costs to provide local services, social services, and the education of Minnesota’s  students.

Local leaders are also working to improve deteriorating infrastructure but are doing so without  appropriate state investments. There are urgent needs for funding the state’s social service and mental health support services to address substantial challenges being experienced by  families and communities. School districts are confronting widespread challenges for students  that will only compound without necessary resources. Delays in addressing matching funds for  the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and a bonding bill to address  transportation, transit and infrastructure projects will result in higher costs, disjointed  planning, and economic losses.

Local governments also are faced with issuing local regulations as a result of the new THC law.  Prompt establishment of a state framework and parameters for regulation, established by  lawmakers in partnership with local governments, is needed now. Not addressing a framework  until next year is a recipe for a patchwork quilt of local laws that are likely to be inconsistent  from one community to another.

We are therefore writing to respectfully, yet strongly, encourage the prompt convening of a  special session to finalize supplemental budget and tax bills, the development of a capital  investment bill and other critical unfinished business including state matching funds for the  federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, addressing the growing special education cross  subsidy, and addressing a framework for the regulation of cannabinoid products. We call upon  state leaders to continue engaging with us, your local government partners, to finalize  legislation that will serve the entire state.

The state’s historically large budget surplus provides an unprecedented opportunity for  Minnesota to address the state’s immediate and critical needs. We ask all state leaders to use  this opportunity and to return to the work at hand. Minnesota’s local governments, and the  state’s residents, business, families, and students are depending on you.

Now is the time for action: we stand ready to work with you and appreciate your attention to  our request. Our constituents are your constituents. Let’s work together in the next few weeks  to complete the business started months ago and, in the end, benefit all Minnesotans.

Sincerely,

Scott Croonquist

Executive Director

Association of

Metropolitan School Districts

Todd Patzer

President Association of Minnesota Counties

Brian Holmer

President Coalition

of Greater

Minnesota Cities

Ron Johnson

President League of Minnesota Cities

Matt Stemwedel

President Metro

Cities(Association of Metropolitan

Municipalities)

Deb Henton, Ed.D.

Executive Director Minnesota

Association of School Administrators

Cap O’Rourke

Executive Director

Minnesota Association of Small Cities

Gary Burdorf

President

Minnesota Association of Townships

Matt Massman

Executive Director

Minnesota Inter-

County Association

Luke Johnson

Chair Minnesota

Rural Counties

Kirk Schneidawind

Executive Director

Minnesota School Boards Association

James Hovland

Chair Municipal

Legislative

Commission

Jerry Koch

President North Metro Mayors Association

Ida Rukavina

Executive Director Range Association of Municipalities and Schools

Brenda Johnson

Executive Director

Executive Director Southeastern MN League of

Municipalities

Brad Lundell

Executive Director

Schools for Equity

in Education

Bob Byrnes

Mayor, City of

Marshall Southwest MN Council of Mayors

Patrick Baustian

Mayor, City of

Luverne Southwest MN Council of Mayors

Dave Smiglewski

Mayor, City of Granite Falls Southwest MN Council of Mayors

Myron Koets

Mayor, City

of Pipestone

Southwest MN

Council of Mayors

Mike Kuhle

Mayor, City of

Worthington

Southwest MN

Council of Mayors