Minnesota group says area GOP legislators hold key to LGA fundingThe fate of local government aid in Minnesota is in the hands of Republican legislators. That was the message Wednesday from the executive director of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities during several stops in northwestern Minnesota.
By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald
The fate of local government aid in Minnesota is in the hands of Republican legislators.
That was the message Wednesday from the executive director of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities during several stops in northwestern Minnesota.
Legislators such as Deb Kiel of Crookston and Dan Fabian of Roseau, both freshman members of the House, will determine if outstate cities have their state aid cut, said Tim Flaherty, who is also the coalition’s lobbyist.
“It’s the wrong direction to take if you want vibrant communities in places like Crookston and East Grand Forks,” Flaherty said.
Those cities are in Kiel’s district. Thursday's visits include Thief River Falls, which is Fabian’s territory.
Flaherty’s reasoning is that, just several weeks into the legislative session, the Republican caucus has proposed cutting $100 million of the $527 million that was directed to outstate cities. And that’s after only one-sixth of the budget has been considered. He said more cuts are feared as other budget areas are debated.
Democrats support LGA, Flaherty said, but Republicans hold big majorities in both houses. So, it will be up to outstate Republicans to stand firm, Flaherty said.
Flaherty had a sympathetic ear in East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss, who sat in on the meeting with local media. “All freshmen are pressured into following the party line,” Stauss said. “They need to look to what’s best for the citizens in their district.”
Democrats’ ace in the hole is Gov. Mark Dayton, who has promised to support LGA.
East Grand Forks had $825,000 of LGA cut over the last three years. The latest proposal would cost the city another $578,000. LGA comprises about one-third of the city’s budget, Stauss said.
An added problem, Stauss said, is the LGA cuts would come after cities have already set their 2011 budgets. If property taxes are increased, East Grand Forks is more affected than most cities because residents have a short move across the river to find lower taxes, Stauss said.
LGA exists to help cities that don’t have large property tax bases compared with the Twin Cities suburbs and other affluent areas. That means most LGA goes to outstate cities.
Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.