Bill aims to cut cities’ gov’t aid

The bill eliminates local government aid to Mpls., St. Paul and Duluth.

Michael Zittlow

As Republicans in the state Legislature race to roll out their budget by midnight Friday, bills aimed at cutting the stateâÄôs deficit continue to make their way through the Capitol.
In a special Saturday meeting, the House Taxes Committee passed a bill that would cut local government aid to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.
Republicans said repealing local government aid holds affected cities accountable to their constituents. Democrats argued local governments would raise property taxes to fill the gap from the lost funds.
Rep. Diane Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis, said while some smaller communities can survive without local government aid from the state, the Twin Cities is different.
âÄúWe have some unique challenges,âÄù she said. âÄúWe have more people with more problems than anyone else.âÄù
Minneapolis needs local government aid to provide services for the cityâÄôs myriad of visitors and out-of-city workers, Loeffler said.
However, the billâÄôs chief author, Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, said local government aid was created for communities with low tax bases to be able to provide basic services. She said Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth already have those funds available in their budgets.
Runbeck said the cities need to find other ways, like imposing sales taxes, to make up for the aid. She said the three major cities were targeted because they take up most of the local government aid funds.
Minneapolis receives $87.5 million in local government aid, St. Paul gets $62.5 million and Duluth gets $30.9 million.
Critics of the bill said the three cities targeted by Republicans are typically DFL strongholds.
Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, called singling out those three cities âÄúarbitrary.âÄù He said while the authors of the bill claim it singles out âÄúfirst-class cities,âÄù the bill leaves out Rochester, a city that typically favors Republicans.
Runbeck said Rochester wasnâÄôt included in the bill because it takes only $9 million in local government aid âÄî substantially less than the other three major cities.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak sent an email to his supporters Friday asking for help stopping the Republican proposal.
Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said the cuts threaten their citiesâÄô ability to provide public safety.
The Saturday meeting was part of a larger Republican effort to push its budget through the Capitol by Friday. Other bills aimed at cutting the health and human services and education budgets are making their way through committees this week.
Republicans met criticism from DFLers, who say the process is too rushed to provide adequate public feedback.
But Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said the Republican majority is delivering on its promises.
âÄúAt first, they were saying, âÄòWhereâÄôs your budget? WhereâÄôs your budget?âÄôâÄù she said of Democrats. âÄúNow theyâÄôre saying, âÄòOh my goodness, youâÄôre moving too fast.âÄôâÄù
While Republicans are on track to have the budget pieces passed by their self-imposed deadline, Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to veto the proposals including cuts to local government aid.
The governor and the Legislature need to hash out a budget by May 23 or face a government shutdown âÄî a move deemed âÄúunacceptableâÄù by Dayton.