Unlike the Minnesota House of Representatives, the state Senate underscored its commitment to Greater Minnesota communities by including in its tax bill a provision to increase funding for Local Government Aid. Earlier a House omnibus tax bill passed out of committee with severe cuts in LGA, which a city council member from Ely called “the bedrock of rural communities.”
The House committee action is curious – and by some definitions a betrayal of rural Minnesota communities. It was, after all, the voters of Greater Minnesota who in large part gave Republicans the majority in the House. Now, the members of that majority, who campaigned on helping rural and small-city Minnesota, seem to have forgotten their promises.
The Senate put Greater Minnesota first when it released a tax bill Monday that increases LGA funding to $45.5 million over two years. The House proposal cuts $85 million. In fact, the Senate proposal could be seen as no increase at all, since it merely would restore LGA funding to where it was 13 years ago.
LGA is important for the stressed budgets of cities like Moorhead, Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes and Breckenridge. The proven program helps hold down property taxes and strengthens basic services such as fire protection, public safety, libraries and street work. And it’s not a matter of a shortage of money. The state has a $2 billion surplus. One of the best ways to return those dollars to taxpayers is by funding local governments via LGA.
House members from rural areas and small cities in particular have a responsibility to represent their constituents. Most of them are Republicans, and most of them campaigned on the theme of putting more emphasis on the needs of Greater Minnesota. The actions this week in the House indicate they campaigned one way, but are legislating in another way.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.