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Minnesota lawmakers consider changes to Local Government Aid

Cities across Minnesota agree on a new formula that would deliver a more predictable state aid to them.

Coming together on a topic that usually divides urban, suburban, exurban, regional centers and rural communities comes at a time when Democrats in control of the governor's office, House and Senate want to increase Local Government Aid.

The formula in a bill by Rep. Ben Lien, DFL-Moorhead, is simpler and city leaders say it gives them a better idea about how much aid to expect. It also automatically increases payments based on inflation.

"This formula will grow when cities grow," Lien said.

But Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said the proposed formula would increase aid faster than general inflation.

Lien and Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said cities have lost millions of dollars in the last decade as LGA has been cut to help balance the state budget.

"We are reversing the trend," Marquart said of the increased spending and the Lien bill.

"It's time to reboot," said Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. "We've made cuts, we've made hard cuts."

The bill also would provide funding for some suburbs that now receive no LGA.

The aid was established to provide aid to cities that cannot raise enough property tax to support fundamental services such as public safety. Wealthy suburbs have not received the aid since they can raise tax money they need.

Of the state's 854 cities, 107 do not receive LGA now. That number would drop to 85 if the Lien bill passes. The Lien measure may be included in an overall tax bill.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.