Senate Republicans choose division in attack on local government aid

Senate Republicans passed a punitive bill that would divide communities, pitting one against another when Minnesota’s local governments ask for help in times of need. Most Minnesota counties, cities, townships, and even the state participate in mutual aid agreements that outline expectations if another entity is called in to help with an emergency. This often happens with fires, floods, tornadoes, and other critical situations that demand more resources than one community could realistically supply.

Most of the time, cities and counties do not bill each other when these circumstances arise and if they do, it’s under the terms of the agreement and unpaid costs are resolved according to current law. The League of Minnesota Cities testified that they could find no significant instances where cities were owed bills or where mutual aid agreements have failed.

Despite no evidence of a problem, Republicans passed a bill this week that would allow one community to bill the other by garnishing a portion of their Local Government Aid or County Program Aid to cover unpaid costs. Not one of the associations, groups, or organizations representing cities and counties in Minnesota supported this proposal. This is an unprecedented approach that threatens communities across the state.

State aid to local governments are one of the most important methods of controlling property taxes. It helps communities with less ability to raise revenue from their property tax base to fund a level of services –public works, police, and fire services – similar to what wealthier communities are able to provide. Starting a pattern of allowing LGA and CPA to be used as a penalty system would run the risk of increasing property taxes and crippling local public safety and public works needs.

Senate DFLers tried to offer a compromise that would simply improve current dispute resolution options should cities and counties need them. DFL Senators also attempted to increase LGA and CPA to help communities fund the resources they need. Both of these were rejected by Republicans.

Senate DFLers are united by the value that when communities ask for help, they should be helped, not punished. (SF 749)