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2021 Legislative Priorities


St. Louis County, like all Minnesota counties, is responsible for delivering state-mandated services. Our key request to legislators as they work through the difficult challenges of setting a budget this year - please maintain funding for County Program Aid (CPA) and state mandated services. We rely on these funds to do the work the state has tasked us to do. Any cut in these funds passes the burden to local units of government, and by extension to our property owners.

The list of priorities approved by the County Board for the 2021 session:

Protect Major State Aid Program Funding To Counties

  • This includes County Program Aid, Vulnerable Children & Adults Act, and others.

  • PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) – in addition to protecting the funding currently provided we need to address the underfunding of PILT for Northeastern Minnesota.

Human Services Reforms

  • Remove the County Share of mistakenly-billed federal payments for Institutes of Mental Disease (IMD). The Department of Human Services proposed an $8.8 million cost shift to counties last year. Governor Walz proposed covering this cost in his Supplemental Appropriations Bill. However, the sudden state budget shortfall prevented this from passing. St. Louis County’s share of this statewide shift is $700,000.
    Preserve Moose Lake RTC Mental Health funding for this region. Since 1993, when the Moose Lake State Hospital closed, the mental health services previously provided there have been shifted to community-based settings. The Legislature recognized that counties would need to backfill these lost services and passed special funding to assist. However, now at a time when regional mental health needs have only grown, DHS is considering a new Adult Mental Health Initiative (AMHI) funding formula. An option under review would remove our region’s special funding of $2M/year and redirect it statewide. St. Louis County receives, $1.5M of this funding. Northeastern Minnesota is the only region in the state that doesn’t have a Community Behavioral Health Hospital (CBHH). CBH hospitals provide comprehensive 24 hour in-patient mental health services. Since we don’t have a CBHH, county governments instead shoulder this cost and responsibility.
    Continue special COVID-related HHS waivers and telehealth opportunities. These waivers – such as allowing counties to provide targeted case management services via video to clients – are more efficient for counties, leading to significant operational savings.

Environment & Natural Resource Initiatives

  • Fund the expenses counties incur to cleanup/ maintain blighted or environmentally contaminated tax forfeited properties. Through tax forfeiture, counties inherit many properties with complicated environmental problems and history. Counties are mostly left on our own to clean-up, maintain and market these problem properties. And, the revenue from their eventual sale doesn’t cover county clean-up costs. The MPCA only helps remediate polluted tax forfeited land for an imminent threat. Their response is limited to only that specific threat and not the entire site. Abandoned schools are another significant tax forfeited land cost for counties. School districts sell these buildings for a minimal price for redevelopments that often fail, leading to tax forfeiture and responsibility shifting to the county to cover eventual demolition costs.
    Create carbon and wetland credits on County Tax Forfeited Lands. Counties with an abundance of tax forfeited land are well positioned to generate new revenue on these lands, via carbon and wetland credits. In the 2020 Legislative Session, the MN School Trust introduced legislation to allow granting leases and conservation easements on School Trust Lands for ecosystem services. These leases will allow developers (and counties) to claim wetland and carbon credits. County Land Commissioners would like to follow the School Trust’s lead with similar authorizing legislation. Maximizing the use of the hundreds of thousands of acres of productive tax forfeited lands, which counties control, is a win for the environment and for taxpayers.

Bonding Requests


St. Louis County Depot Phase 1 improvements (Exterior and Life/Safety projects) of $1.5M were procured in the 2020 Bonding Bill; Phase 2 improvements (Lifecycle Renewal & Energy Efficiency) of $6.75M, remain.

Regional Solid Waste Landfill/Recycling Facility - $20M request towards new facility

Remaining Initiatives

    • Community Corrections Act Funding
    • Broad Band Funding
    • Lands Bill
    • Quad City ATV Trail/funding extension
    • Voyageur Country ATV Trail/funding extension
    • Gravel Pit Minnesota Statutes 373 Changes
    • Statewide Film Incentive Program


John Ongaro