Child care discussions continue at committee hearings

There has been a lot of activity on the child care front in the past week. On March 1, the House Early Childhood Committee and the Jobs Committee held a joint hearing in St. Cloud. The purpose of the hearing was to highlight the economic and employment impacts of the child care crisis. The challenge in Greater Minnesota was highlighted by two testifiers: Carol Anderson, executive director of the Community Development Morrison County, and Jason Polovick, administrator at Todd County Care Center.

On Tuesday, our two child care bills were heard in the House Jobs and Workforce Development Committee. Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL-St. Peter) presented HF 422 and HF 423 and explained how the city of St. Peter recently used efforts similar to those permitted in the bills to address St. Peter’s child care crisis and add a number of new child care slots. GMNP Executive Director Dan Dorman testified about the economic impact the child care crisis is having in Greater Minnesota, especially as it relates to attracting and growing employers and retaining workers. Dorman was joined in testifying by Scott Marquardt from the Southwest Initiative Foundation and Nancy Jost from the West Central Initiative Foundation. Continue reading

House committees to travel to St. Cloud for child care hearing

The House Early Childhood Finance & Policy and Jobs & Economic Development Finance committees are traveling to Greater Minnesota for a joint hearing on child care this Friday. The hearing will touch on topics such as child care careers, the provider shortage and how the lack of available child care impacts local businesses and the state’s economy. The hearing is open to the public. Here are the details:

Friday, March 1 — 1-2:30 p.m.
Great River Regional Library – St. Cloud
Mississippi Community Room 106
1300 W. St. Germain St.
St. Cloud, MN 56301

GMNP voices concerns about child care tax credit bill

Scott McMahon, a lobbyist for the GMNP and our sister organization the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities,  testified in the House Tax Committee on Thursday about concerns over a proposal for several new child care tax credits and their limited benefit to families and providers in Greater Minnesota.

HF 1034, authored by Rep. Laurie Pryor (DFL-Minnetonka), would provide a tax credit to families who enroll their children in child care providers who are rated in the state’s Parent Aware quality rating system. It would also provide a per enrollee credit for providers  for enrolling children from high-risk groups, such as children who are homeless, in protective service or whose parents are under 21 years of age. Again, the credit is tied to the Parent Aware system.

McMahon testified that although the CGMC supports using tax policy as a way of eliminating the child care crisis in Greater Minnesota, the Parent Aware system is not well established in our communities. Continue reading

Child care bills receive first hearings

Scott Marquardt, Sen. Carla Nelson and Heidi Hagel-Braid testified in support of the legislation.

On Wednesday, the Senate Family Care and Aging Committee heard the two Greater Minnesota child care bills. This was the first action on the GMNP’s child care efforts in either chamber. SF 537, authored by Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) would appropriate $3 million to the six Minnesota Initiative Funds for their continued efforts to help child care providers build sustainable businesses, grow the child care workforce and stabilize the industry. SF 538, authored by Sen. Jerry Relph (R-St. Cloud), would create a $10 million capital grant program to build new or expand existing child care facilities to increase capacity in the community.

Testifying in support of the two bills were Dan Dorman, executive director of the GMNP; Tim Penny, president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation; Scott Marquardt, vice president of the Southwest Initiative Foundation; and Heidi Hagel-Braid, chief program officer with First Children’s Finance. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce also spoke out in favor of both bills. Stacy Stout, the Chamber’s director of workforce and education policy, highlighted the negative impact that the child care crisis in Greater Minnesota has on businesses’ ability to expand and hire employees. Continue reading

Senate committee holds hearing on BDPI bill

A bill to increase funding for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) Grant Program was heard in the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee on Monday. SF 536, authored by Sen. John Jasinski (R-Faribault), would provide $5 million in cash from the general fund for the program. We are also pursuing a separate bill that would allocate $20 million in bonding.

BDPI is an economic development program that provides grants to communities for up to 50 percent of the capital costs associated with the public infrastructure to accommodate economic expansion. Nearly 100 Greater Minnesota cities have received BDPI grants since the program’s creation in 2003.

GMNP Executive Director Dan Dorman testified in favor of the bill, noting that BDPI has proven to be a successful economic development tool for Greater Minnesota cities. Shane Zahrt, a lobbyist for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, also testified in support of the bill. Zahrt shared a letter from Two Harbors City Administrator Dan Walker, who cited a BDPI grant as being the catalyst for a Castle Danger Brewery expansion project that has helped revitalize his city’s downtown and bring jobs to the area.

SF 536 was laid over for possible inclusion in a larger omnibus bill.

Two bills, one goal: Legislation aims to create long-term solutions to Greater Minnesota’s child care shortage

For Immediate Release
Contact: Julie Liew,
PDF version

ST. PAUL—A pair of bills that call on the state to make modest investments to help address the critical child care shortage in Greater Minnesota were introduced today at the Minnesota Legislature.

SF 537/HF 422, authored by Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) and Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL-St. Peter), and SF 538/HF 423, authored by Sen. Jerry Relph (R-St. Cloud) and Rep. Brand, both create and fund new grant programs with the shared goal of increasing child care capacity while fostering successful and sustainable child care business operations in Greater Minnesota.

“A big thank you to Sen. Nelson, Sen. Relph and Rep. Brand for taking on this complicated issue,” said Nicole Griensewic Mickelson, executive director of the Region Nine Development Commission and president of the Greater Minnesota Partnership (GMNP), an economic development advocacy organization that has been working with legislators to explore ways to address Greater Minnesota’s child care needs. Continue reading

Join us for Legislative Action Day!

Happy New Year to all of our Greater Minnesota Partnership members! We hope your 2019 is off to a great start.

Later this month our sister organization, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, will hold its annual Legislative Action Day. As in recent years, all GMNP members are invited to attend this “day at the Capitol” and lobbying event, which will be held Wednesday, Jan. 30 in St. Paul. We encourage all GMNP members to attend!

Please fill out the online registration form at The cost is $70 per person, and attendees may pay online or be invoiced later. Please register by Jan. 21. Continue reading

New report calls on state to solve Minnesota’s child care crisis

A new report issued by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Think Small, one of the state’s leading research and advocacy organizations focused on improving early childhood education in Minnesota, calls on Minnesota’s policy leaders to address the child care and achievement gap crises experienced across the state, and in particular in Greater Minnesota.

A Roadmap for Action: Addressing Minnesota’s Achievement Gaps and Quality Early Care & Education Shortage is the work of a collection of 10 organizations from across the state, ranging from business groups like the Chamber to associations representing child care providers. Two organizations that work closely with the Greater Minnesota Partnership—the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and First Children’s Finance—participated on the working group.

Included in the group’s recommendation is a call to increase state funding for capital and technical assistance to increase available child care slots in areas of need, which align with the GMNP’s legislative priorities.

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.