ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Forum editorial: Push is on to scuttle Minnesota LGA

In a passionate speech on the House floor in St. Paul this week, Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, warned that a bill passed Monday is the beginning of the end for Local Government Aid for cities. It was not hyperbole.

In a passionate speech on the House floor in St. Paul this week, Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, warned that a bill passed Monday is the beginning of the end for Local Government Aid for cities. It was not hyperbole.

Marquart, who is a former mayor of Dilworth, knows of what he speaks. The veteran legislator was making sure his colleagues from rural Minnesota, especially Republicans, understood what they were voting for when passing a bill that will begin to slash aid to cities. He wondered why no out-state Republican spoke against legislation that he believes will hurt their constituents. The vote in the Republican-controlled House was

73-59 to cut state aid and to lower income taxes.

Lower income taxes? That sounds good. But Marquart and others stressed that the proposed income tax reduction cannot be honestly viewed as some sort of replacement for aid-to-cities cuts. As aid reductions cut deeper, the pattern Minnesota has fallen into will be repeated: Either the tax burden will be shifted to local property taxes to make up for the state aid shortfall, or local services will take a hit, or cities will cobble together some combination of both lousy options.

Chairman of the Tax Committee Greg Davis, R-Preston, said it was not the intent of the bill to end local aid. He said he supports "what LGA is for," whatever that means. "What LGA is for" is not the same as funding LGA.

ADVERTISEMENT

Furthermore, Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, said earlier this month in a committee hearing that it was her intent to phase out LGA to cities that receive more money than counties and townships. Marquart, therefore, is right to warn that the ultimate goal by the Legislature's majority party is to end the program.

Minnesota's budget crisis has not gone away. In fairness, legislators are trying to balance a budget that is deeply in the red. But fairness was the initial motivation for LGA. It was designed to address basic services concerns in cities where tax bases were not as lucrative as they are in wealthy suburbs. The program has worked very well for Moorhead, Detroit Lakes and dozens of other out-state cities. It has helped keep those cities financially sound and attractive to residents.

Legislators surely are struggling with the state's budget. But that process need not gut a program that has delivered all it promised when it was established decades ago. LGA works as intended. Adjustments might be necessary to deal with the budget shortfall, but what appears to be a not-so-subtle campaign to eliminate the cities' program is misguided and ultimately destructive to the quality of life in the state's smaller cities.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.

What To Read Next
Fargo city commission hand-wringing over northside Red River crossing is short-sighted
The Minnesota State system request for $350 million in additional funding would freeze tuition and train more desperately needed workers.
Part of resistance to bridge connecting downtown to Red River lies with Fargo's perception