OUR OPINION: Don't pay St. Peter by robbing St. Paul
Let's look at the record.
Because once we do, we'll see that there's no justification other than pure politics for Minnesota House Republicans' proposal to slash the share of Local Government Aid that goes to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.
And politics isn't a good enough reason. That's especially true because if the House Republicans' cuts were to go through, then LGA's days likely would be numbered, thanks to the angry cities' inevitable backlash against a program that depends on bipartisan and statewide support.
Local Government Aid is a big reason why East Grand Forks, Crookston, Roseau and several other communities in northwestern Minnesota have nice libraries, attractive parks and professional police and fire departments.
As Brad Peterson of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities explains, the long-running program sends state money to property-poor, high-need cities—cities with lots of older homes, low-income families and the like—to help equalize the quality of public services throughout the state.
Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth all qualify for aid under the state's formula, just as they have since LGA began in the 1970s.
In fact, as the Republican mayors of Owatonna and Glencoe, Minn., pointed out in a column published statewide, "the original 1971 statute on LGA specifically refers to to how Minneapolis and St. Paul's share of aid is calculated."
Count those as among the reasons why the House GOP's 2015 proposed cuts smack of politics.
Count this, too: the cuts were seemingly arbitrary, in that they were proposed without hearings or testimony of any kind.
"I think the question is: Show me what's wrong with the formula," and do so through the Legislature's normal channels, said State Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis and a member of the House's Property Tax and Local Government Finance Committee, in an interview last year.
Here are a few other key facts that point to political—not practical—reasons for the House Republicans' proposed cuts:
"Was it a coincidence that all three send DFL-heavy delegations to the Capitol?" MinnPost.com asked.
"Was it simply by chance that the state's only other first-class city, Rochester — represented in the Legislature by both Republicans and Democrats — was spared from being targeted?"
Then there's the fact that the LGA cities themselves (and the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities that represents them) strongly support restoring the LGA's proposed payments to the affected cities, for the sake of both fairness and the program's long-term political health.
Why would House Republicans ignore the pleas of the program's beneficiaries—the cities that presumably would gain if the cuts sent more LGA money their way?
Why, unless the GOP members were serving a higher master of party politics?
Outside of House GOP leadership circles, support for redrafting the House GOP's proposal to take out the cuts to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth seems statewide and strong. Here's hoping local representatives such as State Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, and others get the message and communicate it to House leadership in no uncertain terms.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald