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Greater MN brings back request: More state funds, please

ST. PAUL -- There is no surprise to what Greater Minnesota cities want from the next Legislature: more state money. It is an issue Greater Minnesota city officials, along with those from Minneapolis and St. Paul, have brought to legislators every...

ST. PAUL - There is no surprise to what Greater Minnesota cities want from the next Legislature: more state money.

It is an issue Greater Minnesota city officials, along with those from Minneapolis and St. Paul, have brought to legislators every year for more than a decade. State funds, paid through the Local Government Aid program, are sitting below where they were in 2002 as state budget cuts have reduced what cities receive.
Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities leaders said Tuesday that enough is enough.
“A lack of increases will force us to find ways to increase taxes or cut services,” Willmar City Council member Audrey Nelsen told reporters.
She encouraged Minnesotans to “work together to impress our legislators” about the importance of giving more money to cities.
“It is a vital foundation for many cities,” added Le Sueur Mayor Robert Broeder, president of the Greater Minnesota cities group.
Some cities depend on LGA for about half of their budgets.
House Republicans last year backed a plan, which remains alive this year, to eventually eliminate state aid to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth, saying those cities have enough property that they could survive on property taxes. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, voted to bump up LGA.
Eliminating three of the state’s largest cities would have been “the beginning of the end to this program,” Broeder said.
The mayor and others said that dropping state aid to those cities would reduce political support, which would affect their smaller cities.

The coalition seeks a $45.5 million increase over two years. It also wants more funding for business development, broadband and housing, but coalition leaders concentrated on state aid for their cities.
Despite letters to the editor that appear to say otherwise, coalition lobbyist Bradley Peterson said the GOP plan did not take money away from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth and give to smaller cities; instead, it just reduced the aid for the large cities and kept other LGA static.
“There was not one dime of additional dollars put in,” Peterson said.
The Legislature convenes March 8.

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“We see that when things happen in the coastal areas, a few years later, they start trending toward the Midwest,” said Rep. Ben Krohmer, serving his first term in the House.
“This is sensationalism at its finest, and it does not deserve to be heard in our state capitol,” Rep. Erin Healy, a Democrat and one of 10 votes against the bill in the 70-person chamber, said.