During last year’s session of the Minnesota Legislature, the House passed a $85 million cut to the local government aid program. The cut slashed LGA funding for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth, while freezing all other cities that receive this state money.

Meanwhile, the Senate passed a $45.5 million increase to LGA that would benefit all participating communities. One significant reason for the increase: aid levels remain below what they were in 2002, when Gov. Tim Pawlenty opted to make drastic cuts. Each year, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities - along with community leaders from across the state - lobby for additional funding, which is critical to maintaining core services such as law enforcement, public works and more.

That effort will no doubt be aggressive once again this year, as the state currently has a project surplus of $1.2 billion. A new state budget forecast, slated to come out the first week in March, may well project an even greater surplus. If LGA can’t get more funding now, when?

Communities across southwest Minnesota have long been beneficiaries of LGA, which shouldn’t been seen as merely a handout. LGA exists primarily as an equalizer of sorts for cities like Worthington (for example) that don’t have the same property tax base as, say, a Metro suburb to fund much-needed services. LGA, in some form, has been around in Minnesota for nearly 50 years, and though there has been talk of reforming or eliminating the program, doing so - at this point, anyway - appears politically unlikely. Such maneuvers could send participating communities toward an irreversible demise.

We believe it’s important that Gov. Mark Dayton add what the Senate passed in 2015 - a $45.5 million LGA increase - to his upcoming supplemental budget. Then, such an increase ultimately needs to advance through this upcoming session. If there’s ever a time to get this program’s funding to a level it was at 15 years ago, this is it.