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MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE: DFL-leaning cities rap GOP LGA cuts ... Outdoors derailed ... New map OK'd ... more

DFL-leaning cities rap GOP LGA cuts ST. PAUL -- A Republican tax bill that cuts state payments to cities has upset city leaders. The House-Senate tax conference committee agreed late Thursday to trim Local Government Aid as it wrapped up a tax bi...

DFL-leaning cities rap GOP LGA cuts

ST. PAUL -- A Republican tax bill that cuts state payments to cities has upset city leaders.

The House-Senate tax conference committee agreed late Thursday to trim Local Government Aid as it wrapped up a tax bill, and phasing out aid to Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Comments rolled in all day Friday.

"Last night, the tax conference committee decided to cut an additional 29 percent of Local Government Aid funding and cripple the state's largest cities by phasing out their funding," said Park Rapids Mayor Nancy Carroll, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.


"The House and Senate majority's plan to balance the state budget by relying entirely on spending cuts and property tax increases is unacceptable."

A Republican-dominated conference committee made the decision, which likely will face strong opposition in the governor's office.

Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, said phasing out aid to the three specific cities skipped over the third-largest city, Rochester, which is represented by Republicans.

"This is a purely partisan attack," the senator said. "The only reason these three cities are being targeted, and Rochester exempted, is party politics."

Republicans said the cities are large enough to fund their own operations without so much state help.

Next year, the three larger cities would receive 75 percent of current aid, and the funds would shrink until the cities get no aid in 2014.

Duluth now receives more than $26 million a year from the state, and the bill would cut $17.2 million next year.

"Our economy can't sustain the amount of cuts to Local Government Aid proposed by the Legislature," Duluth Mayor Don Ness said.


Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged to keep local aid, and he will enter budget talks early next week.

Another change in the bill is elimination of a border cities tax plan that provides Breckenridge, Dilworth, East Grand Forks, Moorhead and Ortonville businesses with tax breaks so the cities may compete with lower-taxed North Dakota.

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said that with North Dakota's improving economy and growing state budget, he thinks Minnesota's western neighbor will offer increased business competition, and border cities tax breaks would help keep firms in Minnesota.

Outdoors derailed

A bill that would fight aquatic species that are invading Minnesota was on the fast track until Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk convinced fellow senators it needed more study.

The Cook Democrat said that Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen's bill skipped part of the legislative process.

The Senate passed a similar bill and sent it to the House, which made several changes.

But Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, wanted the full Senate to pass the House bill without sending it to a committee for consideration, Bakk said.


Bakk persuaded senators to unanimously agree to send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee, where the new provisions can be debated.

The bill places more penalties on people who do not adequately prevent carrying invasive species from one body of water to another.

Republican leaders had wanted to send the bill to Dayton before he left for the Governor's Fishing Opener at noon Friday, but now it will early next week before he can sign the bill into law.

The House approved 71-61 a bill to redraw U.S. House district lines.

A highlight of the plan, drawn and supported by Republicans, was making the mostly rural congressional districts stretch from east to west across the state, dramatically different than the current two northern districts.

The new map would lump all of northern Minnesota into one district and create three districts that stretch across the state

.Democrats' main argument against the bill was that the map was not released far enough in advance of a committee vote for the public to study it.


But Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, said there has been plenty of publicity in his northwest Minnesota district, and he received only one comment, and that was from someone outside his district.

"It has not generated much conversation among my constituents," Fabian said.

Huddle on stadium

Dayton and several key Cabinet members met behind closed doors Friday with legislative backers of a new stadium for the Vikings, trying to figure out how to make the team's site choice in suburban Arden Hills viable in the waning days of the legislative session.

Several participants in the meeting said talks centered on the Ramsey County site. Lanning, the Republican carrying the bill in the House, said that's because the Vikings have made it their clear choice over rebuilding at the current Metrodome site in Minneapolis.

But the Ramsey County site is presenting challenges, given the May 23 deadline to adjourn the legislative session.

Lanning said there's still a lack of clarity over the exact cost of needed road repairs around the site -- costs that threaten to push the total state spending commitment well above a $300 million ceiling that Dayton and legislators insist is set in stone.


The deal struck earlier this week between the Vikings and Ramsey County leaders split costs for the $1.1 billion, retractable-roof stadium between the team $407 million; the county at $350 million; and the state at $300 million -- plus the cost of transportation improvements.

But those added costs are turning out to be the rub.

A state Department of Transportation estimate pegged transportation spending needs in the area to be at least $175 million, but Vikings and Ramsey County officials believe that's too high.

They also argue most of those improvements would have to happen in the next few years, anyway, with or without the stadium.

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