Mayors: Aid is vital for local governments
By Don Davis
State Capitol Bureau
ST. PAUL -- Mayors from across Minnesota, from the biggest to one of the smallest cities, gave Gov. Mark Dayton a unified message today: State aid is vital for their budgets.
Dayton did not argue. In fact, the Democrat governor said that continuing state aid is one of his priorities.
"We've already done out share to help with the (state) budget," Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski told Dayton, referring to Local Government Aid and other state cutbacks since 2003.
In Morris, Local Government Aid accounts for about two-thirds of the city's $3 million annual General Fund budget, and the city's share of LGA has been cut by about $500,000 since 2008.
Added Thief River Falls Mayor Steve Nordhagen: "Thief River Falls and other cities out there would not exist without Local Government Aid."
About 20 city officials delivered the same message to a governor who wants LGA and other local government payments increased in the next two-year budget. However, Republicans who control the Legislature already passed a bill, vetoed by Dayton, to keep LGA at current levels. Cities had expected an increase and some included that extra money in their budgets.
"More people need more services," Dayton said, and cities without big property tax bases must rely on state aid to help.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Dayton said that LGA is a high priority of his, but said he and legislators must compromise as they negotiate a budget that must plug a $5 billion deficit. He would not say whether he could accept lower local aid payments.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.