Mayor Coleman Submits Letter to State Legislature in Support of Local Government Aid

Mayor Chris Coleman today submitted the following letter for the record to the Minnesota House Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division regarding Local Government Aid (LGA) and other proposed legislation:

Dear Chairman Drazkowski and members of the Property Tax Division,

I am sorry that I am unable to testify in-person before the division today. You know I never miss an opportunity to talk with you about the importance of LGA if I can help it; I have stood with cities and towns across Minnesota every year since taking office in support of LGA. I am confident Saint Paul is well represented by City Council President Russ Stark and Police Chief Todd Axtell. I did want to communicate with you my thoughts on some of the bills before you today.

My absence from the hearing today is because I am at a gathering of the National Leagues of Cities, a group of municipal leaders representing more than 1,600 cities, towns, and villages of all sizes and from all corners of the United States. We are working to understand the proposals coming from the new federal administration and how they will affect municipalities across the nation.

As the seat of state government, the City of Saint Paul is 30 percent property tax exempt. I fully support HF 672 and HF 1320, especially in light of the lack of an LGA increase last biennium. I also believe adding an annual adjustment growth factor to the formula would allow municipalities across Minnesota the stability in funding needed for efficient long term planning for infrastructure and other essential city services. In Saint Paul, 24 percent of our general fund comes from local government aid (LGA).

The bi-partisan and statewide 2013 reforms of the LGA formula found agreement among a varied stakeholder group to ensure confidence and commitment to the program. Bills like HF754 and HF2187, that attempt to make changes to the program outside of the formula, break the agreement that made the program objective and fair. In a similar vein, HF2107 not only works outside the formula but specifically targets Minneapolis and Saint Paul for the passage of our Earn Safe and Sick Time Ordinances. This bill represents egregious interference by the state government in an attempt to make us choose between our constituents and a state program intended to ensure cities across Minnesota can provide adequate city services. The City of Saint Paul supports the bi-partisan and statewide agreed to formula and opposes any attempts to change the program outside of that formula.

HF1146 and HF1504 are both local interference bills that seek to usurp the will of cities in favor of state government intrusion. I know many of you have historically advocated for local control and I hope you will push back against attempts to restrict local control. Local governments need to maintain flexibility in order to be responsive to our constituents. The City of Saint Paul is opposed to both of these bills.

Finally I support the spirit of HF2114. The property tax system in the State of Minnesota is complicated and cumbersome. Reviewing the program to look for efficiencies that improve the program statewide is in the best interest of all property tax payers.

Thank you for taking the time to consider these important issues.

Sincerely,

Christopher B. Coleman

Mayor