With new lobbyist firm, Minneapolis looks to D.C. for more funding

The lobbyist firm represents the city and helps apply for federal grants.

With new lobbyist firm, Minneapolis looks to D.C. for more funding

Nick Sudheimer

 

Last summer, the city of Minneapolis laid off six firefighters after the state cut Local Government Aid allocation by about $23 million.

On Friday, the city applied for a $1 million federal grant that would help it hire them back and pay their salary and wages for two years.

The application exemplifies a common theme among cities across the nation: supplementing lost state aid in  tough economy with federal dollars.

With increasingly tighter budgets, the city of Minneapolis recently approved a 12-month contract with a new lobbying firm in hopes it will continue to attract federal dollars.

The Minneapolis City Council voted Friday to have Faegre Baker Daniels LLP become the city’s new lobbyist. The firm will represent the city at Capitol Hill and help the city apply for federal grants.

The contract will not exceed $120,000, which will save the city $24,000 compared to their last contract.

Jeremy Hanson Willis, the chief of staff for Mayor R.T. Rybak, said the city has long had a lobbyist, but this is the first time the city has switched lobbyists since 2008.

City councilwoman Elizabeth Glidden said the firm will play an important role for the city because in recent years the city has increasingly focused on attracting federal grants.

“We have really utilized our federal lobbyists in ways where we haven’t utilized them before,” Glidden said. “It’s critical to have the right people who are your lobbyists to help you understand what are the [federal] granting guidelines.”

Glidden added that federal grants have funded many different city programs. She pointed to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which has helped the city get through the housing crisis.

“We’ve gotten a lot of money to help with foreclosure prevention and dealing with vacant and boarded buildings,” she said. “That’s all about federal dollars.”

Greg Minchak, a spokesman from the National League of Cities said it’s not unusual for large cities to hire lobbyists.

“With the slow economy, cities are seeing less revenue from their tax base, and a trend of decreasing state aid to cities means that federal dollars are increasingly important for cities to fill budgetary holes,” Minchak said. 

According to the 2012 city budget, Minneapolis is seeing reduced aid from the state. From 2001 to 2012 the amount of annual revenue the city received from the state fell by roughly $105 million.

Despite federal funding to the city more than doubling from 2008 to 2010 to roughly $97 million, this past year the city saw a 46 percent reduction in federal funding. The city estimates it will see another 40 percent reduction in 2012 to about $31 million.

Minchak said that the end of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as well as reduced funding from the federal government, has left fewer federal dollars to go around.

He added that the slow economic recovery means most cities can expect to see tighter budgets for the foreseeable future.