Rise in local government aid, nursing home funding to impact northwest Minnesota region
While this session saw some success in funding, both Rep. Deb Kiel and Sen. Mark Johnson expressed dissatisfaction with government spending and a lack of tax relief.
EAST GRAND FORKS – From an increase of local government aid to funding for nursing homes, approved legislation and budgeting during the recently concluded session of the Minnesota Legislature should impact northwest Minnesota.
LGA and the desire to tweak the formula has been a top legislative priority for East Grand Forks city leaders for years. A large part of how LGA is calculated is based on a city's pre-1940s housing. For East Grand Forks, the Flood of 1997 wiped out much of that housing, causing a ripple effect that has hindered LGA funding for the city.
HF 1938 – introduced during this year's session – modified the LGA formula and proposed an $80 million increase in aid. Next year, East Grand Forks is looking at a proposed increase of $226,213, or a 10.13% increase from this year.
In 2023, the city received $2,233,625 in LGA. That number will go up to $2,459,838 next year. As previously reported by the Herald , LGA in East Grand Forks goes into the city’s general fund, meant to offset property tax for cities that have more residential property than industry.
Police State Aid – and how much of that aid will be allocated to the East Grand Forks Police Department – is still being finalized.
Chief of Police Michael Hedlund said the aid amount is based on a formula. Each year, the department submits a form detailing how many officers are on staff that have worked a set number of months the previous year. Training reimbursement – including travel – is offered by the state. Overall, the aid helps cover the department costs.
“In reality it’s just used to offset our bottom line of the general fund budget,” Hedlund said. “There might be some stipulations on this new money that I have not seen yet, but typically it just goes in to offset the city’s costs.”
The police and fire departments don’t have a yearly income like East Grand Forks Water and Light, for instance.
“The state understands that, so they’re trying to help offset those expenses because, obviously, public safety – police and fire – are necessary in any community,” Hedlund said. "So (the state) is just trying to make it a little bit easier for communities to afford those expenses.”
Last year the East Grand Forks Police Department received $214,518.60 in Police State Aid.
Other funding coming out of the session includes $300 million in aid to nursing homes across the state as part of a $2.6 billion capital investment package .
Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, said the funding is important, though there is still a big need for people to work in nursing homes.
“It isn’t nearly enough to rescue everybody fully, but it allows us to live another day,” Kiel said. “I’m hoping that with the $300 million we can help those nursing homes to stabilize."
Nursing homes in the region, including in Crookston , have closed due to issues with finding nurses and nursing assistants, along with shortfalls in reimbursement rates from the state for traveling staff.
In addition to the nursing home funding, Kiel said a Nurses and Patient Safety Act, formerly known as the Nurses at the Bedside Act, will address health professional education with a loan forgiveness program as well as childcare costs incurred by nurses when working to transition from a CNA to an LPN, or from an LPN to an RN.
Kiel said that will benefit colleges and students in the region.
“We have the academics for that in the area so that will help both our colleges and then our students who want to seek higher education in health care,” she said.
This session also saw prioritization for safe roads and bridges, public safety and water treatment projects across the state. In an op-ed published in the Herald , Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said the bipartisan bonding bill that passed will fund more projects across the state than the bill that failed earlier in the session.
While this session saw some success in funding, both Kiel and Johnson expressed dissatisfaction with government spending and a lack of tax relief.
In his op-ed, Johnson outlined the increases in taxes within the tax bill for paid family and medical leave, the transportation bill and a gas tax bill.
"While this session has been difficult, I am hopeful that next year we can use the last week of the session as a model to work together to pass bipartisan bills and laws that will help the whole state," Johnson wrote in his op-ed.
Kiel said the tax increases from this session are "unbelievable."
"I think, well I know the statistics are going to hold this up too: People are leaving the state in droves because they're just frustrated," she said.