This legislative session could be a good one for Minneapolis and St. Paul: With DFLers in control at the Capitol, Minnesota's two largest cities see opportunities to get more state money for their local priorities.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and other mayors from around the state recently gathered at the Capitol to show their support for Gov. Mark Dayton's proposed budget.
"For the first time in many years, we have a proposal on the table, with support from many of the legislators in both bodies to restore some of the Local Government Aid," Coleman said.
Local Government Aid is a program that sends state money to cities, and it's been cut by nearly a third over the last decade.
But St. Paul would see a $9-million dollar boost in its Local Government Aid payment next year under the governor's plan. Minneapolis would gain almost $12 million. The two cities alone would capture more than a quarter of the new money Dayton wants to pump into the program.
“Of course they're going to be asking for and making their best case for spending lots of money on Minneapolis and St. Paul.”GOP state Rep. Matt Dean
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak says that's a major turnaround from the way things worked under Republican rule.
"This is sure a lot different then it was back in say 2003, where a number of legislators and a governor got elected by bashing the city of Minneapolis and saying they were going to come over and stick it to us, which frankly they did for a decade.," Rybak said. "It's much, much better."
Republicans aren't surprised Minneapolis and St. Paul feel optimistic this session. State Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, expects Democrats will feel a lot of pressure to funnel funds to the big cities.
"That is the center of the Democrat base. There's no two ways about it," Dean said. "Of course they're going to be asking for and making their best case for spending lots of money on Minneapolis and St. Paul."
Both cities have multiple professional lobbyists on staff as well as contracts with outside firms. Minneapolis spent $394,000 lobbying the Legislature last year; St. Paul spent $123,000.
Their official legislative wish lists include a vast array of projects and policy changes in areas including transportation, public safety and economic development.
Twin Cities bonding requests
• Minnesota Children's Museum: $12 million
• Como Park transportation improvements: $7 million
• TPT renovations: $9 million
• Regional Public Safety building and indoor range: $6.5 million
• Como exhibit asset preservation: $2.1 million
• Watergate Marina design/engineering: $1.4 million
• Nicollet Mall rebuild: $25 million
• Interstate 35W storm tunnel preservation: $4.5 million
• Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery rehabilitation: $2.2 million
Minneapolis wants $25 million in state bonding money to overhaul Nicollet Mall. St. Paul wants $12 million for the Minnesota Children's Museum.
Alice Hausman, a Democrat, chairs the House Capital Investment Committee, and she supports both those projects. While Gov. Dayton hasn't yet proposed a bonding bill Hausman is pushing for a bonding bill this year. The St. Paul legislator said for one to succeed, it needs to balance the needs of the core cities with the suburbs and greater Minnesota.
"It's absolutely going to be equitable," Hausman said. "Everyone should be able to look at that bonding bill and say 'this treats all regions of the state fairly, and spends taxpayer dollars fairly.' "
Equality is also a big part of St. Paul's argument for more state money. It's lobbying the Legislature to forgive the $30 million it still owes on the mortgage for the Xcel Energy Center.
City of St. Paul spokesman Joe Campbell said it's the fair thing to do.
"The city of Minneapolis received a $1 billion investment for their Vikings Stadium," Campbell said. "Placing a $1 billion investment in Minneapolis with no investment in St. Paul is not for the betterment of our region, and we're best served when both Minneapolis and St. Paul have an equal amount of investment."
The Vikings bill did include $2.7 million a year for St. Paul to spend on "the operating or capital costs of new or existing sports facilities." The city also scored $25 million from the state last year to build a new ballpark for the minor league Saints baseball team.
Still, Campbell said it will take more than that before St. Paul feels it's gotten a fair shake at the Capitol.
But with DFLers from Minneapolis and St. Paul controlling the governor's office and many powerful committees at the Legislature, it's likely both cities will be seeing more state investment.
|59||Minneapolis||Bobby Joe Champion|
|61||Minneapolis||Scott Dibbke||Transportation and Public Safety|
|63||Minneapolis||Patricia Torres Ray||Education|
|64||St. Paul||Dick Cohen||Finance|
|65||St. Paul||Sandy Pappas||State and Local Government|
|66||St. Paul*||John Marty||Environment and Energy|
|67||St. Paul||Foung Hawj|
|*Sen. Marty lives in Roseville, but his district includes part of St. Paul.|
|59A||Minneapolis||Joe Mullery||Early Childhood and Youth Development|
|61A||Minneapolis||Frank Hornstein||Transportation Finance|
|61B||Minneapolis||Paul Thissen||Speaker of the House|
|62A||Minneapolis||Karen Clark||Housing Finance and Policy|
|63A||Minneapolis||Jim Davnie||Property and Local Tax Division + Ethics|
|63B||Minneapolis||Jean Wagenius||Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance|
|64A||St. Paul||Erin Murphy||Rules and Legislative Administration|
|64B||St. Paul||Michael Paymar||Public Safety Finance and Policy|
|65A||St. Paul||Rena Moran|
|65B||St. Paul||Carlos Mariani||Education Policy|
|66A||St. Paul||Alice Hausman||Capital Investment|
|66B||St. Paul||John Lesch||Civil Law|
|67A||St. Paul||Tim Mahoney||Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy|
|67B||St. Paul||Sheldon Johnson||Labor, Workforce and Regulated Industries|