BEMIDJI -- After a successful lobbying effort in 2019 to boost state funding to Local Government Aid, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota is looking to make it two in a row with a major bonding bill in 2020.
During a teleconference Thursday, CGMC leadership offered a blueprint for its legislative agenda during the 2020 session. The main focus of the agenda is a bonding bill with at least $1.5 billion. Of that bill, CGMC officials are calling for $200 million to fund water infrastructure.
"Every session is different and presents its own challenges and opportunities," said CGMC Director Bradley Peterson. "We think in 2020 there are a lot of opportunities to make some important investments in infrastructure across the state of Minnesota."
Greg Zylka, Little Falls mayor and CGMC vice president, said the need for water infrastructure improvements is widespread throughout the state.
"From our perspective, the cornerstone of the bonding bill has to be the $200 million in funding for water infrastructure grants and loan programs," Zylka said. "More than 300 cities have projects in the works to repair and upgrade wastewater and drinking water facilities. The state needs to be a stronger partner in helping cities pay for these multi-million dollar upgrades."
One of those cities with projects in development is Bemidji. The city of Bemidji is planning to build a treatment facility in order to remove chemicals formerly used in firefighting foams that have been discovered near its wells.
The cost of the project is estimated at $16 million. Additionally, the city is looking to make upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant to handle capacity and meet new guidelines. The cost of doing so is estimated between $10 million and $13 million.
Along with a request for $8 million from the bonding bill, the city is seeking legislative authorization on a 0.5% sales tax. The revenue of the tax would go toward both water projects and capital needs at the Sanford Center.
"There have been 21 cities and counties with sales tax proposals. The city of Bemidji isn't unique in seeking sales tax authorization for water treatment facilities," Peterson said. "I think the Legislature saw a lot of sales taxes related to funding local and regional streets, parks and other community facilities. I think that will be a significant discussion at the Legislature this year. We're certainly supportive of our cities as they seek to meet their needs."