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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL)

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Cuts to Local Government Aid Hit Cities and Counties Hard

Thursday, February 18, 2010
ST. PAUL, MN – The grim realities of life with reduced Local Government Aid (LGA) were on display yesterday at the Capitol. The House Local Government Division held a hearing where Minnesotans testified on how LGA cuts were affecting cities and counties. It was held after the Governor announced his plan to get rid of $250 million in LGA. The committee chair, State Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL- Brooklyn Park), hopes the Governor listens to the stories he heard. “Cities large and small are facing a crisis," said Nelson. “Many cities and counties have already cut services that strengthen ties between neighbors in our communities-things like libraries, recreation centers, and student programs. The only thing left for many is taking an axe to public safety, something the Governor claims he wouldn’t do.” In Minneapolis, cuts to local aid will come from the city’s general fund. This accounts for one-third of the overall budget, or $375 million. “We have a $50.3 million cut to the city of Minneapolis. This cut has the potential to change public service as we know it,” said Elizabeth Gordon, Minneapolis City Council. Gordon said that the LGA cuts have wrecked havoc on the city’s budget. This has created an unstable environment for the city’s employees. The city’s police department has proposed cutting over 50 civilian jobs. While not cops on a beat, they provide critical assistance to officers in the street. “How can our Governor claim that public services will be maintained when cities like Minneapolis have to consider police department reductions?” said Nelson. “The Governor believes that shifting the burden to counties and cities will solve our budget problems when actually it creates another one.” This isn’t the first time that cities have faced cuts. Governor Pawlenty’s unallotment last year included a reduction in LGA of $147 million. Many cities tried to balance their budgets around this fact with limited success. Testifiers explained that the cuts have also hit counties hard. “We are doing less with less. We are no longer able to provide the level of services people have grown accustomed to in the past,” said Keith Carlson, MN Inter-County Association. Council members and city managers stated that many of their budgets’ had counted on a large portion to consist of LGA. They now have to factor this in when planning their budgets. Ely uses LGA for 44 percent of their budget. Mankato once allotted LGA funds for 55 percent of their budget. These reductions have led to tough choices. “The city of Ely has a brand new rec facitilty that is sitting empty because we can’t staff it.” Jeff Kletscher, Mayor of Floodwood, summed up the problem, “I have no place left to cut.” Rep. Nelson can be reached at (651) 296-7065 or by e-mail at rep.mike.nelson@house.mn -30-