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Mayors urge Legislature to allow more local control

ST. PAUL -- Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland stood in a Minnesota Capitol hallway surrounded by suburban city officials Wednesday. If the rhetoric dispensed around the Capitol were to be believed, he would have been locked in combat with his suburban ...

ST. PAUL -- Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland stood in a Minnesota Capitol hallway surrounded by suburban city officials Wednesday.

If the rhetoric dispensed around the Capitol were to be believed, he would have been locked in combat with his suburban colleagues over state aid payments.

Instead they agreed, especially on the need to let cities make their own decisions.

"No one in St. Paul can know when a road in Plymouth needs to be fixed," said Plymouth Mayor Judy Johnson.

"I cannot say for Moorhead how they should run their community," Johnson said.

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Added Voxland: Legislators should not set the price of fireworks licenses, as they are considering.

The theme of the League of Minnesota Cities' gathering was "Let us build quality communities," with "us" underlined.

Johnson said many legislative proposals would take authority away from cities.

Moorhead Vice Mayor Lauri Winterfeldt-Shanks said the funding issue is not as deep as portrayed.

"There seems to be a sense that we are all in this together," she said.

Voxland and Johnson were among speakers at a Capitol rotunda rally.

Afterward, some city leaders gathered in a hallway.

They agreed -- sort of -- on the biggest issue that could separate them: How cuts in state payments to local governments should be split.

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A Tuesday proposal by Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, and Rep. Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea, that would take much more money from suburbs than a proposal by Gov. Tim Pawlenty even produced some agreement.

"It probably is too extreme," said Minnetonka Mayor Karen Anderson, whose community would be among the hardest hit under the Langseth-Dorman bill.

Voxland, whose community would benefit, agreed the bill might go too far the other way from the Pawlenty plan.

"It's introduced some other things to talk about," Voxland said.

Moorhead could lose anywhere from $1.9 million to $3.6 million in state aid under the various plans. Pawlenty has the largest cut in aid to cities at $435 million.

As Alexandria Mayor Dan Ness said, budget cuts won't hurt as much if everyone feels some of the pain.

The big topic this legislative session has been about a $4.2 billion budget deficit, and one of the most debated parts of the issue is how much state aid to cities should be cut to help balance the budget.

In his speech, Voxland said the city already has cut 21 positions from the payroll and could eliminate eight to 12 more this year and 45 next year if Pawlenty's budget would pass.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707

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