Legislative Priorities

St. Louis County encompasses abundant natural resources, culture and history, and people. We work hard to serve our residents, and to preserve all the rest. This is clear in our bonding requests and other legislative priorities. Below is a list of priorities approved by the County Board for the 2023 session.

Top Bonding Priorities

Leachate Treatment at the Virginia Landfill & Initial Development of the Canyon Landfill
Request = $24.5 million

St. Louis County is seeking $24.5 million in bonding to facilitate leachate treatment at the Virginia landfill and initial development of the Canyon landfill. $4.5 million is requested to expand and relocate the leachate management ponds at the regional landfill in Virginia, MN. St. Louis County is investing in advance filtration technologies, including an engineered wetland treatment system to reduce PFAS and other contaminants leaching into the groundwater. Preliminary research show a 97% reduction in PFAS through use of this system. The additional $20 million is sought to support the planning, funding and development for the establishment of a state-of-the-art integrated waste management campus in New Independence Township, near Canyon. The Canyon facility has been identified as a long-term MSW management solution in the Regional Solid Waste Management Plan for Northeast Minnesota. This is critical for water quality and responsible solid waste management in Northeastern Minnesota.


St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (The Depot) Asset Renovation
Request = $4.658 million 

The Legislature has already awarded $1.5 million for Phase 1 of improvements to the 130-year-old Depot. Now an additional $4.658 million is needed for mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades, as well as life/safety improvements.  With new events and and a renewed focus on engaging the community, the Depot welcomed more than 200,000 visitors in 2022!


Support of Northern Lights Express
Support of State Bonding for $99 million

The Northern Lights Express (NLX) is a proposed higher speed passenger rail project that would provide rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth. After over 20 years of planning, three comprehensive feasibility studies, and receiving federal environmental clearance (FONSI), the NLX Project has received a green light for construction. The IIJA has targeted $16 billion dollars for Inter-City Passenger Rail Projects. 80% federal funding is available, upon a 20% state match. For NLX, $99 million in state funding leverages over $360 million in federal dollar and completes the project. This project is expected to create 3,000 construction jobs, $400 million in in creased tourism spending, and an annual reduction of over one million tons of CO2 emissions from reduced auto travel.


Additional Bonding Requests

  • Northern JPB ATV Trail System
  • Public Works
  • Bridge Bonding ($200M)
  • Local Road Wetland Replacement Program
  • Local Road Improvement Program ($150M), etc.
  • Clarity Project Adjustment
  • The legislature has supported the Clarity Project - a mental health crisis center. This is not a formal bonding request, rather, St. Louis County is requesting to convert our remaining $1.3 million in bonding funds from 2020 into a cash award to better support the collaborative vision to me meet the ever-evolving needs of our region.

Enhance Program Funding to Counties

  • Reform PILT Funding Formula - Payment in Lieu of Taxes is supposed to help counties that contain state-owned land that do not pay property taxes. However, counties with the most PILT lands, receive the least funding per acre. A recent study showed that if parity is restored, St. Louis County could receive up to $4.6 million to offset levy impacts and support key initiatives.


  • Funding for Regional EMS Boards - Seat belt fines are the primary funding source for EMS Boards and, with increased public compliance, revenues have been cut in half. Along with additional funding, a scaling back of onerous training requirements would aid in EMS recruitment and retention.
  • Enhance funding for adult and adolescent mental health services and facilities per MICA, AMC and MACSSA priorities
  • Support the State fully funding out-of-home placement costs for children under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
  • Additional State Funding for Border-to-Boarder Broadband Development Program
  • Increase County Program Aid
  • Increase Community Corrections Act Funding
  • Replenish State Transportation Funding to Counties

Lands Bill Legislation

Lands Bill Legislation

We have four requests in this category:  

  • Enact Special Sale of Tax Forfeited Lands due to trespass and other issues.
  • Current constraints are too troublesome for cell towers and other leases with significant investments and infrastructure. We are asking to be able to extend Tax Forfeited Lands lease terms from 10 years to 25 years, and increase the cap from $12K to $50K.
  • Provide eco-system services authority for counties. Extend to counties similar statutory authority as was granted to the School Trust to develop eco-system services (both Carbon Credits and Wetland Banking Authority on Tax Forfeited lands).
  • Allow for authority to purchase certain lands and bring them into the Tax Forfeited Trust, solving access and undivided interest issues. When purchased by the Trust, these lands become eligible for PILT payments.
  • Sax-Zim Bog Enhanced Land Exchange - Pursue special legislation in coordination with the MN DNR for enhanced land exchange with the Conservation Fund in partnership with EIP for a wetland bank project. This legislation would allow the exchange to exceed the 110% of value limit as laid out in existing land exchange statue, in recognition of the increased value of the restoration of peat lands for wetland credits. The monies received in addition to the land exchanged would serve to consolidate the land holdings for the benefit of the tax forfeited trust.

Remaining Initiatives & Statewide County Issues

  • Chronic Wasting Disease - Support legislation placing a moratorium on new captive deer farms. Restrict intrastate movement of deer (from one deer farm to another) unless proper notice is given.
  • Repeal/amend new Truth in Taxation requirements for supplemental budget information.
  • Repeal Evergreen Polling Place (383C.806), Historical Society Funding Restriction (383C.74), and Members of Boards an Commissions: Terms of Office (383C.07).


John Ongaro
Intergovernmental Relations Director

100 North 5th Avenue West
Room 202
Duluth, MN 55802