Rural MN city leaders release session wish list

City leaders in rural Minnesota say they want a boost in state aid during the 2018 legislative session, which begins Tuesday.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) outlined a proposal Thursday for a permanent $30.5 million increase in the funding known as Local Government Aid or LGA.

Bradley Peterson, the coalition’s executive director, said the proposed increase would bring LGA back to its 2002 level. Peterson said he’s concerned that lawmakers will “rest on their laurels” after a $15 million increase in LGA last session.

“Since we know the legislature will be doing a tax bill and that there will be likely some surplus, we need to keep moving forward on progress for Local Government Aid,” Peterson said.

Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski, the president of CGMC, said his city put off many important equipment purchase in recent years because LGA was not keeping pace with rising costs.

“We’re really trying to catch up and get back to where we were, like every city in Minnesota,” Smiglewski said.

The coalition is also pushing for a bonding bill that includes $167 million to help cities upgrade drinking water and wastewater facilities. Another $50 million proposal would assist small cities repair streets.

In addition, CGMC is calling on lawmakers to address the growing child care shortage in rural areas. The group is backing a proposal that would distribute funding for child care through regional initiative foundations.

John Radermacher, the city administrator in Little Falls, said the lack of child care options has become a problem for employers seeking workers.

“We see it as an economic development issue for us,” Radermacher said. “People who have families and pre-school aged children, they’re going to need a place to take those kids.”