Minnesota Mayors, AFSCME Call on Legislature to Restore Local Government Aid

SAINT PAUL – Mayor Chris Coleman today (May 17, 2017) was joined by mayors and municipal employees from across Minnesota to urge the Legislature to restore Local Government Aid (LGA) to 2003 certified levels. As the 2017 Legislative session comes to a close, Minnesota’s mayors came to the Capitol to remind Legislators that Minnesota’s cities depend on LGA to fund essential services like police and fire.

“The ongoing underfunding of LGA is an attack on the financial stability of all Minnesotans,” said Mayor Coleman. “Nearly 90 percent of Minnesota’s cities and towns depend on LGA to fund essential services like police and fire. In Saint Paul, 30 percent of our property is tax exempt – we rely on LGA to make up a quarter of our general fund. Absent increased ongoing funding of the program, Minnesota cities will continue to face economic uncertainty, unfair tax increases or devastating cuts to essential services.”

Today, Saint Paul receives more than $48 million less than the certified 2003 LGA appropriation level, after adjusting for inflation.

“LGA represents roughly 35 percent of our general fund budget,” said Duluth Mayor Emily Larson. “These dollars fund core city functions like fire, police, libraries, parks, and streets. LGA is a critical resource for us to serve a city of 86,000 people – but it also supports the approximately 45,000 daily visitors who rely on Duluth to support their health care, education, retail, and workplace needs.”

“Mayors don't buy into the rural urban divide,” said Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht. “We support One Minnesota where our values of public safety, equitable taxes and reliable infrastructure are shared.”

Local Government Aid was established in 1971 as a partnership between local communities and the state known as the “Minnesota Miracle.” The partnership recognized the importance of ensuring that the funding of basic local needs, such as police and firefighter services, would not be placed on the backs of middle-class families.

“Local Government Aid is important to the city of Owatonna,” said Owatonna Mayor Thomas Kuntz. “Police and fire are essential services. We are a city that is 160 years old and infrastructure is very important. Road repairs are needed. A reduction in LGA puts unacceptable pressure on our citizen’s tax rate so that we can deliver those essential services and repairs.”

“Local Government Aid matters to urban and rural residents,” said Jennifer Munt, AFSCME Minnesota Council 5. “LGA creates stronger communities with parks, libraries, police and fire protection. It prevents local government layoffs. And it holds down our property taxes. AFSCME urges Governor Dayton to demand a significant and permanent LGA increase before he signs the final tax bill.”

“Providing adequate police and fire protection, safe streets and bridges, and clean and safe public parks are not Democrat or Republican values, they are not rural or urban values, they are Minnesota values,” said Fergus Falls Mayor Ben Schierer. “As mayors we understand the balance between providing for the growth and livability of our cities while being fiscally responsible to our taxpayers. LGA is critical to making that balance work for our cities. Yes, we have to be concerned about the next property tax statement, but we also have to be concerned about the next generation.”

There was more than $43 million in total reductions to LGA from 2008 – 2012, creating an unacceptable burden on middle-class families across the state. Investments in 2013 and 2014 were critical in renewing this important fiscal relationship. Absent ongoing funding of the LGA program, cities will continue to face the prospect of having to choose service reductions or above-inflation increases in property taxes, or both.

“In North Branch, Local Government Aid is 15 percent of the City's budget,” said North Branch Mayor Kirsten Hagen-Kennedy. “Without that support our city would immediately have to cut our police department by 40 percent, or public works by 70 percent, or the entire Fire Department, Planning/Zoning and Parks Services.”