Better Minnesota cities define high legislative priorities

Communities across Minnesota asked lawmakers Friday for more support for childcare, housing, water infrastructure, and assistance to local governments during this legislature as smaller communities continue to deal with the economic aftermath of the pandemic.

The Coalition of Cities in Greater Minnesota, which represents more than 100 small towns outside the seven-county Twin Cities subway area, announced their top legislative priorities at a press conference as lawmakers and state officials begin preparing a two-year budget .

Bradley Peterson, the coalition executive director, said maintaining the state’s state aid program, which aims to prevent property taxes from increasing by providing funding to maintain city services and infrastructure, is “the most important thing that ever the state can do to support our communities this year. “

“In my town, (local government aid) makes up 40 percent of our general fund, so any cut to the program would be devastating,” said Greg Zylka, president and mayor of the organization in Little Falls, Minn. To cut the LGA is the only way To remedy this without cutting the services to our police and fire, taxing our communities. “

The coalition is also calling on lawmakers to invest in childcare services and more housing in their cities – both of which are in short supply outside of the subway area.

The group is advocating a $ 20 million grant to build more childcare facilities, as well as other grants to provide more support to existing providers and start additional childcare businesses. She also calls for more funding for renovating run-down houses and building infrastructure like sewers and roads for future housing developments, and wants policy changes to encourage developers to build more houses outside of twin cities.

Though lawmakers passed a long-belated $ 1.9 billion public works package in October that provides $ 269 million in clean water infrastructure, the state is $ 11 billion behind maintaining the aging one Water infrastructure will decline over the next 20 years. The organization is calling on lawmakers to pass an infrastructure bill at this session that includes grants for water infrastructure of at least $ 100 million.

While a distant legislature – and legislature’s focus on eliminating a projected budget deficit of $ 1.3 billion – hurts the chances of an infrastructure package coming together, Peterson hopes the interests of the smaller cities fall into a “sweet spot” to which the legislature can reach an agreement.

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