Today, the Minnesota Senate heard Senate File 749, a bill from Senate Republicans that would penalize Local Government Aid (LGA). The state distributes LGA to cities across Minnesota for general purposes, and it is used by cities to provide basic community services, such as public safety, fire and public works. It has also been used as a mechanism to offer cities property tax relief.
The bill today would allow local governments with unpaid expenses resulting from assistance provided to another city to apply for reimbursement of those costs. This means that when a city has an emergency and calls in mutual aid from another city, the city providing assistance could charge the city in need for the services provided. The reimbursement would come from a reduction in the receiving city’s LGA or county’s County Program Aid (CPA). Currently, cities work cooperatively under mutual aid agreements every day, and there are no significant examples of unresolved disputes. This bill would add an unnecessary, punitive measure that could deplete city resources and increase property taxes.
After voting against the bill, Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent released the following statement:
“Minnesotans have a history of being a state that takes care of each other. Penalizing cities in need is not in our character, nor is it efficient or healthy for our state’s overall success. Emergencies can happen anywhere. We’ve seen it during fires and floods across Minnesota. We don’t know where the next emergency will happen, and we shouldn’t make it more difficult for Minnesotans to receive help when they need it.”
“By supporting this bill, Republicans are proposing to cut public safety budgets. LGA supports police and fire services in hundreds of communities across Minnesota. Republicans talked about this bill like it was all about Minneapolis, but it will have negative rippling effects across the entire state. This bill would potentially garnish any city in need of assistance that receives LGA, which would put a strain on their budget and could possibly lead to an increase in property taxes as they work to offset the lost revenue. This bill makes it more difficult for our communities to help each other in times of need by adding a layer of bureaucracy to a system that already works well.”
In response to SF 749, the Senate DFL offered two amendments in an attempt to meet LGA’s unmet needs and hold communities harmless. The first one was a dispute resolution that would delete the language of SF 749 and put forth a process that communities could use to resolve outstanding bills, should there ever be an issue. The second amendment would increase LGA and County Program Aid across the state. Increasing state aids to meet local government’s unmet needs would provide more resources for cities to hire emergency personnel and support local services. It also would offset the detrimental effects of this bill and potentially prevent cities from having to raise property taxes. Both amendments failed due to the lack of support by the Senate Republicans.