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Editorial: Support an LGA increase this year

Among all of its other priorities this session, we encourage the Legislature to increase local government aid funding to cities across the state.

Local government aid originated in the 1970s to help cities fund services for their residents.

LGA reached its peak for Albert Lea in 2002, when the city received $6.38 million through the funding source. At one point, LGA funded over 50 percent of the city’s budget, and at lower points it has funded about 35 percent.

LGA not only helps cities provide much-needed services to residents and businesses, but it also helps keep property taxes down.

According to the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, there is a direct correlation between a decrease in LGA funding and an increase in local property taxes. As LGA funding has decreased in the last decade, property taxes have risen as cities struggled to pay for basic services such as road repairs.

For these reasons and others, we encourage the Legislature to restore LGA to its 2002 levels. Under this proposal, Albert Lea would see $6.38 million a year from LGA, compared to the $5.2 million it is slated to receive this year. To restore LGA to these levels would require a $45.5 million increase in funding across the state.

We oppose a proposal in the House that would cut $84 million from the LGA program to the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth and would freeze appropriations for all other cities. This undermines the program and the success that was made reforming it in 2013 with broad support.

Had the formula not been reformed, Albert Lea would have lost about $539,000, and Austin would have lost about $746,000, according to the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.

We ask legislators who support the House proposal to please reconsider. Reverse course on this harmful position and instead support the Senate’s plan for LGA that includes the increase.

Albert Lea is one of at least 74 cities across the state that has passed a resolution through the end of February supporting this increase.

With a $900 million surplus, it is the opportunity to help keep our cities strong.

About Editorial Board

The Editorial Board of the Albert Lea Tribune comprises Scott Schmeltzer, Tim Engstrom and Sarah Stultz.

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