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Forum editorial: House aims to slash local aid

As the Minnesota Legislature convenes today in St. Paul, it’s a good time to remind House Republicans that many of them ran on a pledge to secure and enhance the state’s shorted Local Government Aid program. The reminder should be especially resonant with rural and small-city Republican representatives who won election or re-election on that pledge.

A pledge, by the way, they dishonored in the past session and, if they stick to their previous position, intend to dishonor again.

A Senate tax bill in conference committee includes a $45.5 million increase in LGA, which would bring funding levels to near where they were in 2002. The House bill, which all Republican members voted for, calls for an $84 million cut in LGA, a reduction opposed by some 60 Minnesota cities, many of them allegedly represented by House Republicans.

Gov. Mark Dayton has been unclear about his support for LGA funding, but his final budget is expected to be clearer. He should enthusiastically support the Senate bill.

Meanwhile, the House majority shows no signs of backing away from the $84 million LGA cut, which would be devastating for local city budgets, and in many instances force raises in local taxes. Republicans apparently don’t see the irony in insisting they won’t raise taxes and advocating LGA cuts that would force tax increases.

The 60 or more cities that have adopted resolutions in support of the Senate’s $45.5 million run-in-place LGA increase range from Albert Lea to Worthington. Cities in nearby northwest Minnesota include Barnesville, Breckenridge, Elbow Lake, Fergus Falls, Moorhead, Perham and Wheaton. Several of those cities elected Republicans who voted to slash LGA funding in the past session.

Legislators cannot crow they work for “greater Minnesota” if the want to gut a program that is vital to the financial health of greater Minnesota cities. The Senate’s LGA increase has bipartisan support. It’s a reasonable plan that in effect returns LGA funding to 2002 levels. Only House Republicans seem determined to not only undermine equity but to actually cut the current low level of funding. It’s a curious position given their high-sounding rhetoric about representing the interests of greater Minnesota communities.

Editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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