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Weber pushes bill for more local state aid

ST. PAUL — New legislation introduced Monday won’t see any objections from Minnesota mayors.

The bill, authored by District 22 Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne in the Senate and District 12B Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck in the House, calls for $45.5 million in additional funding to the Local Government Aid (LGA) program over the next two years.

LGA is a key componentto city budgets across the state. For example, LGA alone makes up nearly 40 percent of Worthington’s general fund budget.

Under the proposed funding levels, Worthington would receive funding in the area of $3,406,166 — its LGA allotment in 2002 — up from $3,177,946 this year. The city cited such an increase as a legislative priority for this year’s session.

In 2001, state lawmakers increased the LGA appropriation by $140 million, effective in 2002. Since then, LGA funding steadily dropped off until 2013 and 2014, when lawmakers make significant increases. However, the funding levels still lag behind 2002 numbers.

Funding levels have not only failed to increase, but also haven’t been adjusted for inflation. The 2002 appropriation of $3.4 million equates to more than $4.6 million in 2017, meaning most cities have seen a major decrease in real state aid dollars.

Increasing LGA funding was the top priority for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). Over 80 cities are members of the coalition, including Luverne, Slayton, Windom, Pipestone and Worthington.

Sara Carlson, mayor of Alexandria and president of the CGMC, touted the bill as a bipartisan breakthrough. The Senate bill’s four co-sponsors include two Republicans and two members of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party. The House version includes 10 Republicans and seven Democrats.

“The fact that this bill has attracted legislators from both political parties and all parts of the state
— rural, urban and suburban — just goes to show how important LGA is,” Carlson said. “It can be a real challenge for lawmakers to find common ground these days, but it’s clear that there is
strong bipartisan support for LGA.”

Gov. Mark Dayton has called for $19 million in additional LGA aid in his 2018-19 budget recommendations.

Although it originally started out as a per capita funding program, LGA uses a complex formula that decides which cities have the most need.

For instance, Fairmont will receive nearly $250,000 more in LGA funds this year than Worthington, despite having a population of 2,500 fewer people. Marshall will only receive $2.4 million, despite having slightly more residents than Worthington.