Protecting and recovering local government aid (LGA) funding in the 2010 legislative session was chief among the discussions held at the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities’ (CGMC) fall conference. This year’s conference, hosted in Alexandria, Minn., brought together mayors and city officials from across the state to set the policies that will direct the Coalition’s legislative actions in the coming year.

“Cities were disproportionately targeted for funding cuts in recent unallotment actions, and it’s time for the legislature to stand up and right this wrong,” said St. Peter Mayor Timothy Strand, president of the Coalition.

Specifically, CGMC will urge legislators to limit the 2010 LGA and Market Value Housing Credit unallotments to the 2009 level—which would net a savings of $60 million for the year—and seek to protect the program from any further unallotments. The governor’s unallotment action for the 2009-2010 biennium included a $246 million, or 23 percent, reduction to the LGA program. This figure is on top of the governor’s $54 million year-end cut to LGA in 2008.

“Repeated cuts to LGA have pushed our communities to the edge, and our ability to provide public safety, libraries, parks, and other essential services at an affordable price to property taxpayers is suffering. On behalf of our residents, we are telling legislators and the governor that enough is enough.”

With economic recovery and job creation on the minds of CGMC members, the Coalition’s fall conference also provided members an opportunity to hear from bonding committee members. Sen. Keith Langseth (DFL-Glyndon), chair of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, and Rep. Larry Howes (R-Walker), Republican lead of the House Capital Investment Finance Division, fielded city officials’ questions regarding the size and scope of a 2010 bonding bill in light of the current budget crisis.

“A lot of people have said…how can you spend this kind of money when you don’t have any?” Sen. Langseth said. “If you look at it strictly from a business point of view, the time for a bonding bill is in tough times. That’s when you get the best bids and when you put people to work that wouldn’t normally be working, and that money comes back to the state treasury…This is the time to bond and build.”

CGMC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 77 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to greater Minnesota.