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Coalition identifies LGA as legislative priority

Workforce housing, broadband also a concern

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities has established local government aid as its top legislative priority this year, a priority of which is critical to Albert Lea, according to two local officials.

Dan Dorman, former District 27A House representative and executive director of Greater Minnesota Partnership, said LGA helps allow cities such as Albert Lea to maintain vital services, including police, ambulance and fire services.

Peggy Bennett

Peggy Bennett

Dorman said it allows property tax levels to be kept at a competitive level.

“I think that we want livable communities, not just communities that have and those that have not,” Dorman said.

The state certified approximately $519.4 million in LGA for 2016; of that, approximately $5.23 million was certified for Albert Lea — more than one-third of the city’s general fund budget of about $15.1 million.

District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, said she was in a work group during the 2015 legislative session that met weekly and discussed LGA and other issues pertinent to rural Minnesota, including broadband access, workforce housing and taxes, including on how to become more competitive with border states.

“It is important, it’s a Greater Minnesota priority,” Bennett said of the importance of local government aid.

She plans on addressing LGA, tax relief and road and bridge funding in the 2016 legislative session.

Workforce housing, infrastructure funding, broadband expansion and transportation were established as other top coalition goals.

Coalition members expressed anger over a cut in LGA proposed by Minnesota House Republicans.

“The House Republicans’ current stance on local government aid is extremely harmful to rural Minnesota cities,” said Robert Broeder, Le Sueur mayor and coalition president, in a press release. “They need to know that city leaders in Greater Minnesota aren’t going to just stand by and watch them take the first steps toward dismantling this vital program.”

The House of Representative’s LGA proposal passed in the 2015 session and is sitting in conference committee. The Minnesota Legislature was unable to reach an agreement on a tax bill in 2015.

The House proposal cuts $84 million from the LGA program by reducing the amount of aid distributed to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.

Bennett said cutting money from the three cities leaves more money for the smaller cities that need the funds and leaves the three cities more in line with per capita funding of other cities.

“We want to make sure it’s wisely spent, and it’s going where it’s most needed,” Bennett said of local government aid funding.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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