Mayors from St. Paul, Minneapolis and greater Minnesota gathered at the Capitol today to deliver the follow message regarding the governor’s latest plan to cut LGA:
St. Paul, Minn.—Devastating, disproportionate and irresponsible. That’s how Minnesota city leaders characterized Governor Tim Pawlenty’s latest round of proposed cuts to local government aid (LGA). Mayors from across the state met in St. Paul today to reject the governor’s recently announced budget plan and call on lawmakers to clean up the state’s budget mess before asking cities to do the dirty work.
“Cities have made the tough choices,” St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said. “We have done more with less, found new efficiencies, made painful cuts and even raised property taxes. It’s time for leaders at the Capitol to make some tough decisions and come together to solve the state’s long term deficit without shifting the burden to our cities.”
The stakes are high, and the decisions made in St. Paul over the next few weeks will be felt across Minnesota for a generation, Coleman stated.
“We are here today to deliver a message that our cities, big and small, are going to stand and speak with one voice to ensure that we have the resources we need to keep our economy growing, keep our cities safe and to keep Minnesota strong.”
Since 2002, LGA has been reduced by over $1 billion and property taxes have increased over 60 percent statewide. In the last three years, the governor reduced the program by another $200 million via his unallotment power. Combining the governor’s 2010 unallotment and latest proposed reduction of at least $87.5 million with a $52.5 million cut passed by the legislature this session, city aids and credits face a 43 percent cut for 2010.
“Our communities can’t sustain this magnitude of cut, our communities are at stake” said Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren. “It will simply be devastating to our residents and small businesses. In our city, it’s come to the point where police and emergency services are on the chopping block. Communities—especially those in greater Minnesota—are facing a tough road to economic recovery having lost such a significant source of funding.”
Governor Pawlenty’s plan attempts to close a budget hole of over $400 million that will remain open unless anticipated federal money reaches the state before the legislature adjourns May 17. City officials agreed that it was wise to have a contingency plan in place should these funds be delayed, but stressed that the governor’s plan simply shifts the burden of budget-balancing to the local level.
“Tough times require tough choices—the state has failed to make them, while cities and communities have. We have structurally balanced our own budgets and reformed the way we do business while staying focused on the basics of keeping people safe, creating good jobs and creating good futures for kids,” said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
“Strong communities where businesses want to create jobs and families want to raise their kids are what will pull our economy out of its downturn. Minnesotans have a right to expect that legislators and the governor will stop using their cities and communities as a short-term fix and will finally come together to solve the state’s long-term budget crisis once and for all.”