Below is a press release that was sent to media state-wide. A PDF version is available here.
For Immediate Release
Nov. 13, 2015
Contact: Julie Liew
CGMC: Increasing LGA top priority for 2016
Group calls on House Republicans to reverse course and support an increase
ALEXANDRIA, MINN.—With the state budget expected to show a $1 billion surplus, city leaders from across Greater Minnesota have set increasing funding for the Local Government Aid (LGA) program as their top priority for the 2016 legislative session.
A bipartisan mix of city officials from throughout Greater Minnesota attended the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities’ (CGMC) annual fall conference this week in Alexandria, where the group set its legislative priorities for the upcoming year. Much of the discussion centered on the importance of LGA and need for additional funding to help keep cities strong.
“LGA is absolutely vital to our communities,” said Robert Broeder, mayor of Le Sueur and president of the CGMC. “Many cities rely on LGA to help pay for basic services like police and fire protection and street repairs. Without it, we’d be forced to either cut staff and services or drastically raise property taxes.”
To many city leaders, it appears LGA is currently at a crossroads. Efforts to increase LGA during the last legislative session were ultimately unsuccessful when the Legislature failed to pass an omnibus tax bill. While the Senate passed a bill that included a $45.5 million increase (the amount sought by the CGMC), the Republican-led House passed a separate bill that actually cut $84 million from the program by targeting the amount of aid that goes to the “first class” cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.
“The bill that passed in the House last spring poses a fundamental threat to the LGA program,” said Hal Leland, mayor of Fergus Falls. “Arbitrarily cutting LGA from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth does nothing to help cities in Greater Minnesota and erodes the integrity of the entire program. I can’t stress enough how harmful that would be to cities, businesses and residents all across the state.”
With the House and Senate versions of the tax bill still languishing in conference committee, the members of the CGMC have vowed to ramp up their efforts to garner legislative support for an LGA increase. In addition to trying to persuade the House GOP to reverse course on the issue, city leaders plan to work with Senate Democrats and Gov. Mark Dayton to ensure that they prioritize an LGA increase when the Legislature reconvenes in March.
“With the large budget surplus, the state is fortunate to have an opportunity to truly invest in the health of our communities,” Broeder said. “If our legislators won’t support an LGA increase now, will they ever?”
The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 85 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to Greater Minnesota. Visit the CGMC online at greatermncities.org.