To Keep Communities Strong, Mayor Rybak, Mayor Ness and Iron Range Mayors Call on Citizens and Legislators to Oppose Cuts to Local Government Aid
March 22, 2010 (MINNEAPOLIS) — For Minnesota to climb out of the economic recession, local communities need to be economically strong, and support for Local Government Aid (LGA) is an important part of that strength. That was the message that Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Duluth Mayor Don Ness, Hibbing Mayor Rick Wolff and Ely Mayor Roger Skraba delivered at press conferences in Duluth, Hibbing and Ely today.
At each event, the mayors also read a statement about LGA from State Senator Tom Bakk of Cook, chair of the Senate Tax Committee. In Hibbing, Mayors Rybak and Wolff were also joined by Virginia Mayor Steve Peterson, Chisholm Mayor Mike Jugovich, Coleraine Mayor Mike Antonovich and La Prairie Mayor Mike Fall.
The mayors held the events in response to Governor Pawlenty’s budget proposal, which strips $125 million of state funding from Minnesota communities. The legislature also recently proposed its budget plan, which minimizes these cuts to roughly $52 million.
Under either plan, the mayors noted, cities continue to bear the brunt of the state budget deficit. Having been disproportionately targeted for reductions since 2002, cuts to LGA have left city residents with fewer police and firefighters on duty, reduced library and park hours, reduced snow plowing and pothole repair and a 64% increase in property taxes across the state.
"Minnesota can be a national economic leader again, but we have to return to our roots by helping local communities across the state stay strong and vibrant," Mayor Rybak said. "Cities are doing their best under tough circumstances, but at some point, the cuts will be too deep and the property tax increases will be too much for families and small businesses to bear in this economy. Residents need to urge state lawmakers to renew their commitment to cities now so that we can make Minnesota communities better places to live and work."
Duluth Mayor Don Ness stated that greater Minnesota is facing the direst situation in decades.
"We appreciate that the legislatures plan minimizes the pain of the governors aid cuts, but for many communities, essential city services and property taxes will still take a hit," Mayor Ness said. "Years of LGA cuts have left many greater Minnesota cities with deteriorating infrastructure and smaller workforces today than a decade ago. Repeatedly cutting LGA is taking greater Minnesota in the wrong direction."
Mayors are hearing from residents across the state who recognize that the continued cuts to local communities have taken a deep toll, Mayor Ness said.
Since 2008 Duluth has lost over $6.7 million, Hibbing has lost over $1.8 million, and Ely over $400,000 in LGA due to unallotments.
"LGA is just 2.9% of the state budget, yet communities have taken 16% of the unallotment cuts," Hibbing Mayor Rick Wolff stated. "Disproportionately targeting cities for cuts is neither a practical nor balanced solution to the state’s budget problems. While the state continues to budget from crisis to crisis, the safety, quality of life services such as parks and libraries, and affordability of our communities are suffering. Minnesotans who want to keep their community strong need to speak up at the state level now before deeper cuts go into effect."
All mayors acknowledged that the legislative session will be difficult given the ongoing state budget deficit, but said they believe that increasing support for local communities will help protect LGA.
"Minnesotans have had it with the continued cuts to their cities. It is long overdue that the state renew a partnership with local communities so we can work together and make Minnesota strong once again," said said Ely Mayor Roger Skraba.
The mayors also read the following statement from State Senator Tom Bakk of Cook.
"As chair of the Senate Tax Committee, I‘ve witnessed firsthand the deterioration of the relationship between the state and our local governments over the issue of LGA. Governor Pawlenty’s unallotments have fallen disproportionately hard on state aid to local governments over the past few years. These cuts are real, and have resulted in higher property taxes and a decrease in services in many communities.
"While it would be very difficult to increase LGA this year, given our persistent budget deficit, I will not support the drastic cuts Governor Pawlenty has proposed. The state asks a lot of our local governments and we need to support them. I assure you that I, along with my Senate DFL colleagues, am aware of the situations being faced by local governments and are working to minimize any further cuts. My thanks to all the local officials who have come to the Capitol or communicated with the governor to make your views heard on this issue. It has absolutely made a difference."
Published Mar. 22, 2010