Bill could reset LGA funding levels

Published 10:29 pm Friday, February 15, 2019

Local legislators expressed support for a bill that would reset local government aid funding to 2002 levels.

The bill — authored by Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, and Rep. Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora — aims to increase LGA funding by $30.5 million, bringing the program to 2002 levels.

District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, said he has always supported LGA funding. He said increasing LGA funding is important for southern Minnesota communities so property taxes can be kept in line.

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District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, said she has consistently supported LGA funding, noting she expects the increase to be included in an omnibus bill. Though she did not rule out supporting the increase if it is included in an omnibus package, she noted she would need to evaluate the rest of the bill.

Bennett said though LGA is important for rural communities, it should not be used for non-essential projects in the largest cities in the state.

According to a press release, the bill “has generated strong bipartisan support from numerous Republican and Democrat co-authors who represent rural and metro districts.”

“As former city officials turned state legislators, Sen. Weber and Rep. Lislegard have first-hand knowledge of the important role LGA plays in keeping Minnesota’s communities strong,” said Bemidji City Councilor Ron Johnson, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, in the release. “I want to thank them, as well as the powerful group of co-authors from both parties, for taking on this critical issue.”

Lislegard, Aurora mayor until getting elected to the Legislature last year, expressed support for the plan in the release.

“This legislation is key to helping cities all across the state keep up with maintenance and infrastructure and provide public safety and other critical services Minnesotans count on while keeping property taxes in check,” he said. “Funding from LGA isn’t a want, but is a need for communities like those I represent, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and city leaders to deliver this much-needed boost.”

Weber, former Luverne mayor, said he is “proud to stand with Greater Minnesota communities and take the lead on this important legislation in the Senate.” 

The increase is described as the coalition’s top priority this session.

According to the release, supporters for the funding increase are enthused because newly elected Gov. Tim Walz has pledged support for LGA and said he plans to include the increase in his budget plan, which is expected to be unveiled next week.

In addition to the bill, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities supports a bill authored by Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, and Rep. Jeff Brand, DFL-St. Peter, which would increase LGA annually for inflation and population growth.

Bennett said she does not support an automatic funding mechanism because she believes government funding should not automatically increase with inflation.

She said LGA funding levels need to be balanced with other needs with limited funding.

Sparks questioned whether an automatic inflator is a good idea because he said it could tie up future legislators.

Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. and City Manager Chad Adams did not respond to phone calls Friday afternoon.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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