Local communities take another hit
Predictably, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposed budget cuts Monday included sizeable reductions in aid to cities and counties. Equally predictably, local government leaders are upset. "(Local government aid) has never been a favorite of the g...
Predictably, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposed budget cuts Monday included sizeable reductions in aid to cities and counties.
Equally predictably, local government leaders are upset.
"(Local government aid) has never been a favorite of the governor's," East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss said. "He's always felt that's an area he can cut."
Over the past three years, Pawlenty has "unallocated" about $800,000 in LGA targeted for East Grand Forks.
The estimate of his additional proposed reduction for 2010 is another $462,000, city administrator Scott Huizenga said.
It's unclear whether Pawlenty can make the cuts without Legislature approval. In recent years, Pawlenty "unallocated" the money without the Legislature's consent, a move that is now under Minnesota Supreme Court scrutiny.
"We know that the state has financial programs, and we know they have to make cuts," Stauss said. "Our concern is that they try to cut equally across the board and not have the lion's share come from LGA since so many small communities such as ourselves rely on it to help with budgets."
Huizenga said Pawlenty's proposal would bring cuts in East Grand Forks to $900,000 for 2010, 10 percent of the city's budget and 30 percent of its anticipated LGA. He said it's "devastating" because it's double the cut he was expecting.
"This is the governor's shot across the bow to the Legislature, showing what he may do if they don't play ball with him," Huizenga said. "In the short run, we'll have to dig into reserves and freeze spending as best we can."
Warren Strandell, Polk County commissioner from East Grand Forks, said the county's finances were in good shape after recently setting a budget with the first round of unallotments figured in the mix.
"Then, here comes another round, which really kicks us in the tail again," he said. "The state has to realize it has to increase taxes or cut its budget. They can't keep passing it on to us. It's discouraging."
Northwestern Minnesota city and county officials will be in St. Paul on Wednesday for meetings with legislators and representatives of the Coalition of Minnesota Cities.
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