Last night, Senator Roger Reinert defended the need and purpose of Local Government Aid in a speech on the floor of the Minnesota Senate. The speech was part of the debate on the Omnibus Tax Conference Committee report (HF42). The conference committee report included cuts that Senator Reinert called the “House plus” approach to LGA cuts.
“The Senate bill that went into conference committee was a bill we could live with,” said Senator Reinert. “The Senate bill had $203 million dollars in cuts to LGA; essentially telling our cities that they would be where they’ve been – which the cities had figured out and were making work.” The House bill had $247 million of cuts to LGA, but the resulting conference committee report ballooned the figure to $310 million, and included a complete phase-out of LGA for Duluth, Minneapolis, and St. Paul.
As Senator Reinert mentioned on the floor, Duluth is a regional center and provides services and benefits to more people than just those that live within the city limits. Yet it’s Duluthians who pay property taxes for things like the library and park system – departments that have been decimated because of previous budget cuts.
“Some 60% of the region’s jobs are in Duluth, so people come in to work during the day, they use the lakewalk on their lunch hour, after work they meet up with friends and go run the trails, they use our recreational resources,” Senator Reinert said as an example. “But it’s primarily Duluth taxpayers that pay to support those things.”
“Firefighters are another good example,” he said. “We have the only full-time professional fire department in the northland. If there is a biohazard issue, if there is a high-angle rescue, an ice rescue – it’s my firefighters that go do it, no matter what community it is located in, because we have mutual service agreements. The same thing applies to our police force.”
“If these cuts go through, and Duluth is forced to take away its library system, take away its park system, take away its specialized police and fire… everyone in the surrounding area will suffer – not just my community,” he summarized.