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Greater Minnesota must be a priority

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The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is heading into the 2013 Legislative session with the strongest membership our organization has ever had. Now representing 85 cities from every corner of the state —  with the recent additions of Fairmont, Little Falls, Slayton and Duluth — our coalition is gaining influence at the State Capitol.

Why is our organization growing? Because Greater Minnesota cannot afford to be put on the back burner any longer. For too long, investments in economic development have been targeted to the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The same focus that went into passing the Vikings and Saints stadiums last year should this year be put into providing economic development opportunities that will help our Greater Minnesota communities prosper. It is now time for the Legislature to work on policies that will help grow jobs and businesses in Greater Minnesota.

The CGMC is also mounting because our rural communities are in need of property tax relief and improvements to our aging infrastructure. Greater Minnesota has been hit disproportionately hard by cuts to state property tax programs, and as a result, have seen our property taxes increase much faster than the metro area. The local government aid program — which is a vital partnership between the state and its cities to provide the services needed to support businesses and economic growth — must receive a renewed commitment in 2013. The LGA formula must be reformed in a way that recognizes cities’ different needs and abilities to raise local revenues. LGA program funding should also be increased to provide stability to cities’ budgets and provide property tax relief to a larger group of cities.

The CGMC is calling upon Minnesota’s rural legislators to speak with a stronger voice. It is our hope and expectation that a caucus of Greater Minnesota legislators — both DFL and GOP — will band together to advance the property tax relief and economic development policies that are needed in our communities.

If lawmakers are sincere about their intent to make the 2013 Legislative Session about “bread and butter” economic issues, then helping to build strong, economically-viable Greater Minnesota cities should top that agenda. The CGMC will have a strong presence at the Capitol, with proposals ready that will achieve that goal.

Mayor Bruce Ahlgren

Cloquet

Mayor Suzanne Hilgert

Olivia

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