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Editorial: Our LGA is vital

Ana Anthony/Daily Globe Mayor Alan Oberloh sits in his chair in the Worthington City Hall council chambers during a September 2011 meeting.

Two percent.

That's how much of Minnesota's general fund is taken up by Local Government Aid. Yet, given the amount of political discussion LGA triggers, one could be forgiven for thinking it's far more substantial.

Representatives of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities -- including mayors Alan Oberloh of Worthington, Pat Baustian of Luverne and Chris Coleman of St. Paul, visited Worthington Monday to meet with community leaders about LGA. The information presented wasn't necessarily revelatory, but it's importance by no means should be dismissed.

Established in the 1970s as a means of providing fairness in property taxation, the goal behind LGA's creation was to fund local services and reduce tax disparities across Minnesota, and to help cities that bear an overburden. Since 2003, however, the city of Worthington (to point out just one example) has lost $6 million in LGA, Oberloh noted Monday. And if LGA were to be eliminated, Baustian said, Luverne would need to hike property taxes between 20 and 25 percent to maintain its current municipal services.

"If they (Minnesota) would just allow us to capture the taxes going to the state, we wouldn't need the aid," Coleman added Monday. That aid, he said Tuesday during a phone conversation with the Daily Globe, "keeps cities livable ... and keeps people wanting to spend money in Minnesota communities." LGA, Coleman continued, "is critical to Minnesota's vitality."

Two percent of Minnesota's general fund isn't much when considering the state's vitality, is it? Municipalities across Minnesota have already cut to the bone in many places. Legislative leaders in St. Paul should do their part to preserve, and even enhance, LGA levels.