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Local government aid, broadband among top priorities for Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities

Former Minnesota House Minority Leader Marty Seifert was in Worthington Monday to update the City Council on CGMC's legislative priorities, successes, and emerging issues.

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WORTHINGTON — Ahead of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities fall conference in Alexandria this weekend, former Minnesota House Minority Leader Marty Seifert was in Worthington to update the City Council on the coalition's legislative priorities, successes, and emerging issues.

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Seifert, now a lobbyist with Flaherty & Hood, which represents the CGMC, spoke to the council at its Monday night meeting.

As directed by the CGMC board, Seifert said addressing local government aid was a top objective heading into the 2023 legislative session.

“If we don’t get local government aid from the state, it really ends up putting city council into the position of raising the property tax levy or cutting spending on needed things like parks and libraries and so forth,” Seifert said, adding that for the 106 cities belonging to the CGMC, local government aid typically makes up between 20% to 60% of their city budget.

Like many of last year’s CGMC priorities, the organization’s goal for an updated local government aid formula and appropriation increase was put on hold due to a number of bills not making it to the floor — including the unfinished bonding bill. While 2022 marked a bonding year for the Minnesota legislature, Seifert said there is a possibility of passing a bonding bill in 2023.

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“My cautionary to everyone is that this has to be a bipartisan bill because it’s a 60% majority by the constitution,” Seifert said. “For them to do a bonding bill, they will have to work with everybody to make sure there’s a broad-based consensus.”

While bonding-related projects regarding water infrastructure and housing, and grant programs for business and childcare facilities, remain an ongoing priority for CGMC, Seifert said there was success last session with their broadband goals. A total of $210 million was received for broadband funding, more than double the amount the CGMC lobbied for, as a result of federal COVID bills relegating extra funds.

“This was one area where Minnesota came out with $160 million from the feds,” Seifert said. “We had to match it up with $50 million from our budget surplus.”

While Seifert warned that deployment has been slow, it is underway and one of the “good news items” from the last session.

In addition to seeing work start again on matters left over from last year’s legislative session, Mayor Mike Kuhle asked about the state’s budget surplus, which Seifert projected to be north of $7 billion.

Seifert said he wasn't sure exactly what would happen, but recommend the state be “prudent” with the surplus and try to set aside some funds for what he predicts will be a slowing down of the economy in the coming years. That being said, Seifert said he believed there was room for local government aid increases and a “good, healthy” bonding bill, though there are lots of competitors looking for funding in a variety of areas.

“We understand that it’s a balancing act,” Seifert said. “So my prediction is that most of the surplus is going to get split…the legislators are going to have to work together and find a bipartisan way to make sure that things are equitable.”

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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