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Session's failure cost Alexandria $300,000 in aid, says coalition

But Broadband funding was a bright spot, according to Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities

EP Alexandria City Government 2
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ALEXANDRIA — The Minnesota Legislature’s 2022 session started with lots of potential but ended in disappointment, according to a coalition representing small cities throughout the state.

The state had an historic $9.3 billion surplus, unspent money from the American Rescue Plan Act, other federal funds for infrastructure, and a big bonding bill that was expected to be approved, according to Elizabeth Wefel with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, which has 110 member-cities.

“There were lots of resources to address needs across the state,” Wefel told the Alexandria City Council Monday night.

The coalition’s legislative goals in 2022 included a $90 million increase in Local Government Aid, an updated LGA formula, an infrastructure-focused bonding bill, a child care economic development grant program and street improvements for large and small cities.

The coalition’s LGA proposals would have resulted in Alexandria getting just over $1.9 million in 2023, a 19% increase from the current LGA amount for 2023, $1.61 million.

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However, the Legislature, Wefel said, failed to get an LGA increase across the finish line. "It was the legislative session that wasn't," she said.

Also, neither the House nor the Senate was able to produce a bonding bill during what was supposed to be a bonding year — something the coalition doesn't remember happening before, Wefels said.

"They (legislators) couldn't agree to anything," she said. "It was very disappointing — just a lot of work that did not get done."

As a result, infrastructure projects will go unfinished, additional child care grants won’t be available and at least $25 million per year in dedicated annual funding for small city streets won’t happen, Wefel said.

Broadband may be the one bright spot of the session, Wefel told the council. A total of $50 million will go toward the border-to-border broadband grant program; at least $100 million from the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act will fund additional border-to-border grants; and $60 million will go toward ARPA capital projects related to broadband, such as mapping and line extensions.

Looking ahead to next year, the coalition expects there will be significant legislative turnover — at least 47 new legislators, said Wefel. This could result in potential changes in legislative control. The governor’s race will be competitive, she added.

Next year will be a budget year and the Legislature will likely have a large surplus to work with, Wefel said, and the coalition will play a critical role educating new and returning legislators about Greater Minnesota issues.

The coalition will meet in Alexandria on Nov. 17-18 for its fall conference.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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