Column: ‘Minnesota Fair’ bill strives to eliminate winners, losers
Published 12:00 am Monday, March 1, 2004
By Dan Sparks, State Senator
Two weeks ago I wrote about some of the new issues facing lawmakers during the 2004 session. While all of these are continuing to make their way through the Legislature, there are still some concerns from last session we have been busy trying to resolve.
One of these issues &045; Local Government Aid &045; received much attention last year, especially in our part of the state.
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On Monday, this issue came one step closer to resolution when I and several other senators introduced a Local Government Aid (LGA) equality bill, designed to restore $60 million of the $150 million in LGA cuts made during last year’s legislative session.
Local Government Aid funds essential community services like public safety, and in many cities, last year’s LGA cuts forced massive property tax hikes in order to keep these services running. Greater Minnesota was hit hardest by these hikes &045; I’ve heard from neighbors whose property taxes have increased by 25 percent, but when I talk to my suburban colleagues, they say they haven’t noticed much increase at all.
We all understand the need for sharing the pain of solving the state’s budget deficit, but this is not sharing the pain. This &uot;Minnesota Fair&uot; bill will treat all Minnesota property taxpayers and their communities fairly, and eliminate the winners and losers found under the ’03 plan.
The bill restores only 40 percent of LGA underfunding &045; cities will still be forced to sacrifice. But if our plan is successful, for example, Albert Lea will receive an additional $492,000 in LGA funds in 2005, and Austin will receive $657,500 more than expected under the 2003 plan. This would be a huge relief for Greater Minnesota and I am very happy that so many of my colleagues have joined in supporting this legislation. The reason this bill is so important to me is because I heard firsthand from so many of you on how these property tax increases are affecting your lives. You took the time to call, write and even visit me with your concerns, and I can’t tell you how helpful your feedback is to me in representing your interests in St. Paul, and how important public input is to the legislative process in general.
There are many ways individuals can become involved and stay informed.
At the State Capitol, the Senate Information Office is a good resource for information about what is going on at the Capitol.
This office distributes printed materials, responds to public inquiries about legislative committee meetings and provides a host of legislative information.
The Senate Information Office phone number is toll-free, at 1-888-234-1112.
The Senate also has a &uot;listserv&uot; to automatically send daily committee schedules to subscribers with Internet e-mail access.
Visit www.senate.mn/schedule/listserv.htm and fill out the online form.
A weekly &uot;Senate Briefly&uot; details committee and full Senate floor action, published online at www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/briefly/. And, a list of television services and legislative video archives are available at www.senate.mn/media.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns. I can be reached at 651-296-9248; G-24 State Capitol, St. Paul, MN 55155; or at firstname.lastname@example.org, where you may also request a newsletter.