kellogg boulevard bridge
Saint Paul’s highest bonding priority on its 2023 legislative agenda is $26 million for the Kellogg Boulevard Bridge near RiverCentre. The project area is more than 1,000 feet long.

Increasing its allotment of Local Government Aid (LGA) from the state will be the city of Saint Paul’s top priority during the 2023 session of the Minnesota Legislature. The City Council approved the city’s 24-page legislative agenda for 2023 on December 21. The session began January 3.

The city’s 2023 budget anticipates nearly $73 million in LGA, an increase of about $900,000 compared to 2022. Christian Taylor, the city’s director of intergovernmental relations, said that appropriation must increase to help the city meet its needs.

“We have the largest unmet LGA need in the state,” Taylor said. “We’ll be fighting hard for that.”

The Minnesota Department of Revenue has calculated that the statewide need for LGA funding for 2023 is $767.9 million, while the current funding level is $564.4 million. Saint Paul leaders want to see that gap closed. They are also pushing for inflationary adjustments to the LGA formula.

LGA accounts for about 19.5 percent of Saint Paul’s general fund revenues for 2023. LGA was reduced by legislators at least twice in the last two decades. LGA received by the city fell to its lowest point in 2010 at around $50 million.

The next highest priority for Saint Paul is bonding, as a bonding bill was not passed by the 2022 Legislature. The city’s top bonding priority is $26 million for the Kellogg Boulevard Bridge near RiverCentre. The second is $26 million for the Park at RiversEdge. (See story on park plans.)

Taylor said Mayor Melvin Carter is a strong supporter of downtown and riverfront redevelopment. “We believe that funding our (Kellogg) bridge and the park concurrently is a strong step in that direction,” he said.

“We have the largest unmet LGA need in the state,” said Christian Taylor, the city’s director of intergovernmental relations. “We’ll be fighting hard for that.”

The city’s third bonding priority is $20 million for the Great River Recreation and Environmental Education center at Watergate Marina. Fourth is $12 million for improvements to the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, fifth is $13 million for redevelopment of the Hillcrest Golf Course, and sixth is $8 million for the  North End Community Center.

Taylor said the city is also supporting nonprofit bonding requests, including a $5.65 million request for a new Playwrights’ Center in the West Midway, $3.9 million for the East Side Freedom Library, $5 million for the Sanneh Foundation, and an unspecified amount for the Rondo Land bridge over I-94.

“Many of us expected a bonding bill last year,” Taylor said. It is unclear yet whether state lawmakers will bring forward a bonding bill in 2023 or if other ways to fund capital projects will be brought forward.

Priority on affordable housing

A third focus of the city’s legislative agenda is state support of efforts to build more affordable housing, preserve existing affordable housing and provide tenant protections. Funding to rehabilitate Public Housing Authority buildings and to provide more supportive and senior housing are also sought.

“Housing will always be a priority for the city of Saint Paul,” Taylor said.

Efforts to aid the city’s homeless population through state assistance for more supportive services, shelter options, permanent housing and other forms of aid will continue. Taylor said the city will work with the county and its Heading Home Ramsey project to help provide service and support for the homeless.

Other areas of focus for the city include support for initiatives for public safety, libraries, parks, youth jobs, early childhood programs and education, and first responders. Continued state support to combat emerald ash borer is also a focus.

Crackdown on thefts

Among the public safety initiatives is support for the League of Minnesota Cities’ proposal to crack down on those who steal catalytic converters. The focus is on making it harder for scrap metal dealers to purchases the items without proof of ownership. Taylor said the statewide effort was initiated by Saint Paul leaders.

The city is bringing forward a similar initiative regarding the sale of copper wire. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of wiring is stolen from city street lights every year.

Another legislative effort involves  changes to the state’s Open Meeting Law to make it easier for groups like the city’s Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals to meet virtually. They were able to meet virtually during the pandemic as part of the city and state public health emergencies.

— Jane McClure


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