Forecast shows $1.5 billion state budget surplus

Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released the November budget and economic forecast today, which projects a $1.54 billion surplus available for the next two-year budget cycle (Fiscal Year 2020-21). The surplus is the result of $720 million rolled over from the current biennium, along with an $824 million surplus expected in the next biennium. In addition to the available surplus is $350 million that is statutorily dedicated to the state’s rainy day fund, which will now top $2 billion for the first time. The economic forecast does anticipate economic growth to slow and a budget surplus in FY2022-23 of $456 million.

In his response to the budget forecast, Governor-elect Tim Walz prioritized education, health care and investments in communities. DFL legislators, led by House Speaker-designate Melissa Hortman, urged caution and said because inflation is not fully accounted for in the forecast, the coming budget surplus is closer to $350 million. Continue reading

GMNP president moderates legislative panel on child care

Sen. Kent Eken participated in a panel discussion on child care with Sen. Mark Johnson, Sen. Erik Simonson and Rep. Joe Schomacker (not pictured).

Region Nine Development Commission Executive Director Nicole Griensewic Mickelson, who also serves as president of the GMNP, moderated a legislative panel discussion on child care at the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) annual fall conference on Nov. 15 in Alexandria. Panelists were Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley), Sen. Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks), Sen. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth) and Rep. Joe Schomacker (R-Luverne).

The discussion focused on the child care shortage in Greater Minnesota and ways the Legislature might be able to help mitigate the problem. The discussion touched on the fact that the lack of available child care become a serious barrier to economic growth in Greater Minnesota and some of the issues that contribute to the shortage including regulations, affordability and the struggle to find workers.

You can watch video of the full discussion here. In addition, you can read this Alexandria Echo Press article on the panel discussion here.

State launches website to help Minnesotans check their internet speeds

The Minnesota Office of Broadband is promoting a new tool to help consumers measure the broadband speeds actually delivered, as opposed to using the internet provider’s number which is based on what they offer for speeds.

The tool, found at CheckSpeedMinnesota.com, will allow Minnesotans to test, map and report broadband internet speeds. According to a press release from the Department of Employment and Economic Development (which oversees the Office of Broadband), the input captured through the new website will “help create a better overall picture of broadband in the state.”

DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy urges Minnesotans to utilize the site, noting that the information gathered through the tool will provide a better understanding of the internet speeds that consumers in Minnesota truly receive and help make sure the state is making smart investments in broadband. Continue reading

GMNP members invited to join other community leaders for CGMC Fall Conference

All GMNP members are invited to attend the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) Fall Conference on Nov. 15-16 at the Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria. The conference will touch on many issues that are important to our members, including a legislative panel discussion on child care that will be moderated by our own GMNP President, Nicole Griensewic Mickelson.

Other items on the conference agenda include a dinner keynote presentation by KSTP Chief Political Reporter Tom Hauser, a presentation by Minnesota Management & Budget Commissioner Myron Frans, and a recap of the 2018 election and discussion on how the results could impact Greater Minnesota.

It should be an interesting and informative conference! If you would like to attend, please register at greatermncities.org/FallConf18/.

It’s time to renew your GMNP membership!

Within the last two weeks, current GMNP members should have received the 2019 membership renewal letter and invoice in the mail. Membership dues can be paid any time between now and February 1, 2019. Please let us know if you plan to continue to be a part of the GMNP team in 2019, even if you are waiting to send in your dues check until later this year or early next year, by contacting GMNP Executive Director Dan Dorman at dan@gmnp.org. This will help us plan our program of work for the upcoming year.

As our members know, the GMNP has made great strides over the past few years when it comes to advancing economic development priorities for Greater Minnesota. However, there is more work to be done in 2019 and beyond. As we move into the next year, the GMNP plans to continue to advocate for state policies and investments that will address critical economic development concerns such as the child care shortage, job training/workforce needs, workforce housing and public infrastructure needed to encourage business growth. We look forward to continuing to work with you in 2019 to make Greater Minnesota an even better place to live, work and raise a family!

If you are interested in learning more about how to become a member of the GMNP, or if you are a current member but did not receive a renewal notice, please contact Dan Dorman at dan@gmnp.org.

Senate working group to hold listening sessions on child care

The Minnesota Senate has convened a bipartisan Child Care Access Working Group, chaired by Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne), to explore issues related to the child care shortage that affects communities across the state, particularly in Greater Minnesota.

The working group plans to hold a series of listening sessions to hear public testimony on issues related to child care access and affordability. The group will also visit local child care facilities to learn more about the challenges faced by the providers, and they will meet with local economic development authorities to discuss how the lack of child care options contributes to Minnesota’s workforce shortage.

The first listening session will be held Monday in Willmar, followed by Lake City on Sept. 10. Additional listening sessions are expected to be added at a later date.

Willmar Listening Session
Monday, Aug. 13, 6-8 p.m.
Fire Station Training Room, 515 2nd St. SW

Lake City Listening Session
Monday, Sept. 10, 6-8 p.m.
Lake City Public Library, 201 South High St.

2018 Gubernatorial Forum: Focusing on issues important to Greater Minnesota

Join the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, Greater Mankato Growth and the Greater Minnesota Partnership on Thursday, July 26 for a forum featuring the leading candidates in the running to be Minnesota’s next governor! Confirmed participants are DFL candidates State Rep. Erin Murphy, Attorney General Lori Swanson and Congressman Tim Walz and GOP candidate Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. Former Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is challenging Johnson in the GOP primary, has also been invited. Marvin Rhodes, general manager of KEYC News 12, will serve as moderator.

The 90-minute forum will be from 7:30-9 p.m. in the Grand Hall at the Verizon Center in Mankato. The event is free and open to the public; doors open at 7 p.m. Please see this event flyer for more information. Continue reading

Join us for upcoming GMNP events!

As we dive into the month of July, we encourage you to mark your calendars for a few  upcoming GMNP events:

GMNP Membership Meeting

The GMNP’s annual membership meeting will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 26 at the Verizon Center in Mankato (1 Civic Center Plaza). The meeting will include a brief recap of the GMNP’s activities from the previous year, a discussion on possible 2019 priorities, budget overview and a recruitment discussion.

The meeting will be held in conjunction with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) Summer Conference (see info below). If you are planning to attend the meeting, there are a few options for GMNP members:

  1. You can attend the meeting only (no cost)
  2. You can attend the meeting and the keynote luncheon featuring MN Dept. of Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, which is immediately following the meeting ($15 for the cost of the meal)
  3. You can attend the full three-day CGMC summer conference ($260)

Continue reading

Lawmakers take action on child care regulations, but new funding proposals fall by the wayside

The GMNP advocated for three pieces of legislation this session that aimed at reducing the child care shortage in Greater Minnesota: funding for initiative foundations to help provide training to expand access to quality child care; a program modeled after the BDPI grant program which could assist communities to build, upgrade or expand facilities; and additional funding for the Greater Minnesota Child Care Grants Program to increase child care availability.

The latter bill, sponsored by Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar), ultimately gained traction. Originally started as a modest investment in the 2017 session targeted at helping providers expand, this grant program saw large results – creating more than 300 new child care slots with only $500,000 in funding. However, additional funding for this program fell victim to end-of-session maneuvering: the GOP combined several bills into one large supplemental budget bill, hoping to force the Governor’s hand on several provisions. The Governor vetoed the bill last week. Continue reading

Notes from the Capitol: Legislative Update

The 2018 legislative session is rapidly coming to a close. The State Constitution requires the session to end on Monday, but it also requires that bills be passed no later than midnight on Sunday. Here is where some of the top issues currently stand:

Capital investment bill – The House passed their capital investment bill (“bonding bill”) with bipartisan support on Monday. However, the Senate failed to pass their version of the bill. The vote was 34-33, with all Republicans voting yes and all Democrats voting no. The bill failed since the capital investment bill requires that 60% of the body must vote yes in order for it to pass. In the Senate, that means the bill needs at least 41 votes to pass. The DFL members want a larger bill, closer in size to Governor Dayton’s $1.5 billion proposal.

With only a few days left to reach an agreement, it remains unclear whether lawmakers will be able to negotiate a deal and pass a bonding bill this session. Continue reading