3/10/2010 Mayor and Council disagree over LGASome City Council members are sore that Mayor John Howe has said Red Wing doesn't deserve Local Government Aid.
By: Jon Swedien, The Republican Eagle
Some City Council members are sore that Mayor John Howe has said Red Wing doesn't deserve Local Government Aid.
Council member Jerry Cook scolded Howe during Monday's council meeting for comments Howe made Thursday at a forum showcasing three Republican candidates campaigning for the District 28 Senate seat. Howe said if elected he'd like to roll back the state aid program that goes to cities, which has added millions of dollars to Red Wing's coffers.
"John, I've got to ask. What's up with that?" Council member Dean Hove said.
In response, Howe said his stance on LGA is that it should go only to small cities that don't have enough of a tax base to provide basic governmental services and Red Wing doesn't fit that description.
"Do we need it? Absolutely. Do we deserve it? No," Howe said.
Cook and Hove said they were disturbed because they said Howe's comments conflict with the council's stance that LGA cuts hurt the city. Last year, some of Red Wing's LGA was unalloted by the governor. The aid cuts forced the city to shrink its staff through attrition and to cut some services. Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget calls for more LGA cuts again this year.
"This is about the mayor of Red Wing not supporting what the council is saying," Hove said.
Howe said he made the comments as a Senate candidate, not as Red Wing's mayor and that he didn't think Cook and Hove's tack was appropriate. Howe said he would have preferred if they had called him with their grievances and not brought it up during a council meeting.
"You shouldn't be waiting to ambush me here," Howe said.
Hove said the questions were in no way an ambush and that he prefers to talk about such things "out in the open."
Thursday was not the first time Howe articulated his views on LGA, nor the first time he and Cook have failed to see eye to eye. Howe made similar comments on LGA a few months back during a GOP fundraiser. A video of Howe's talk that night was posted on YouTube but later taken down at his request.
Howe has not been outspoken on LGA, however, when the topic has come up at council meetings.
Monday's tiff came about near the end of the meeting after the council had earlier discussed what would happen if state aid dollars were cut again in 2010.
Under Pawlenty's most recent budget proposal, all of the LGA and Market Value Home Credits that Red Wing is currently set to receive for 2010 would be cut -- which would result in a loss of $ $1.2 million.
"We're talking about a significant amount of money we budgeted for and have anticipated," City Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann said.
City officials said they don't need to make any "knee-jerk" decisions just yet, because last year they set aside money in anticipation of losing state aid. But they said that continued state aid cuts will force the city to make further staff reductions, cut more services and likely raise local property taxes.