LGA cut would be a hindrance to Albert Lea
By Vern Rasmussen Jr.
Local government aid, also known as LGA, was a part of the Minnesota Miracle in the early ’70s that restructured Minnesota’s fiscal policy and tax reform. Its purpose was to provide all Minnesota cities with the ability to provide basic services for all its citizens. The funding of LGA is important to the overall economic health and quality of life for the entire state of Minnesota.
Funding of LGA by the state of Minnesota was at its highest in 2002. Since then, there has been a continued effort — and successful effort — to reduce the amount of funding by the Legislature. For example, in 2003, the city of Albert Lea received over 50 percent of its operating budget funding from LGA. In 2013, the city received only 35 percent.
Recently, the city of Albert Lea has seen more effort by the state Legislature to stabilize LGA funding. In Albert Lea, our LGA funding has increased from a low of $4.7 million in 2013 to $5.2 million in 2016, still far short of the LGA funding received in 2003 of $6.4 million. This increase in LGA has helped to keep our operating levy at $4.8 million dollars stable since 2013. We have seen increases in our debt levy, during this same time, to sustain our aging infrastructure.
The funding of LGA is of paramount importance for rural communities like ours. It provides the means to support healthy communities throughout Minnesota without burdening residents with property tax increases to support increasing costs. We need to continue supporting the LGA program and restoring it to previous funding levels. This funding controls property tax increases for all communities in need. The recent state budget surplus provides the state of Minnesota with the tools to increase support of the LGA program by $45.5 million, restoring funding levels of 2002. Recent efforts have focused on eliminating some cities from LGA funding, but this further weakens the program in the future. It limits the political will of future legislatures to support LGA funding.
The Minnesota Miracle gave the entire state the ability to provide a decent quality of life to its citizens and compete with similar communities in other states. Competition drives all of Minnesota to be successful, but any cut to LGA will be a significant hindrance to Albert Lea.
Vern Rasmussen Jr. is the Albert Lea mayor.