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LGA, broadband, workforce housing among top priorities for upcoming legislative session

An organization set up to lobby for the needs of Greater Minnesota cities said its top priority for the upcoming legislative session will be increasing local government aid.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities in the last session sought to restore LGA to its 2002 appropriation. By the end of the session, however, $85 million was cut to first-class cities in the program, including St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth, said lobbyist Tim Flaherty with the coalition in an interview with the Tribune earlier this month.

Flaherty said the coalition plans to go back to Gov. Mark Dayton and House Republicans and ask them to change their positions early.

“Come next January, we may have to get the public involved through the media,” he said. “We’re hoping that the policy rationale is strong enough that they will want to change their positions.”

Albert Lea is presently slated to receive $5.24 million in LGA in 2016. In 2002, the city received $6.38 million.

Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. said for every $100,000 of LGA, this equates to about 2 percent of the tax levy.

“This is something we are going to prioritize,” Flaherty said. “We’re not going to let it slip.”

An information sheet provided by the coalition states the first LGA formula distributed aid on a per-person basis to counties and then distributed it to cities within the county based on their levy size. The larger a city’s levy, the more LGA was received. Aid went to cities across the state regardless of their size or geographical position.

Flaherty said with a $2 billion state surplus last session, the Legislature passed up a good opportunity.

Other priorities are for a workforce housing and broadband Internet.

 

Workforce housing

Dan Dorman, executive director of the Greater Minnesota Parternship, said Albert Lea and many other cities in Greater Minnesota are in need of workforce housing to attract professionals to the area.

“We think the state needs to recognize this and realize it’s really holding back the Greater Minnesota economy,” Dorman said.

He said housing tax credits would stimulate the market. He called for one-time money.

Flaherty said $60 million would create 3,000 units across the state.

 

Broadband

Dorman said he was disappointed in the roughly $10 million that went to support expanding broadband and noted that the governor’s task force has recommended $200 million for this effort. He said not having broadband can be a hinderance to companies in the area.

“If you really want to see Greater Minnesota grow, you have to fund broadband and workforce housing,” Flaherty said. “The long and the short of it is economic development didn’t step up for Greater Minnesota.”