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Collaboration needed to balance budget

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Collaboration needed to balance budget
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When a bill was passed at the State Capitol to eliminate Local Government Aid (LGA) from Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth, mayors from greater Minnesota and across the state didn't lie low: instead, they came to the defense of Minnesota's job-creating core cities and have stood by us in defending a policy that has served our entire state well for over 40 years.

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Why? Because LGA has been instrumental to the success of Minnesota. LGA keeps local communities economically vibrant by helping taxpayers pay for critical services and keeping property taxes down for businesses and families.  

As mayors from across Minnesota, you might expect us to rally around LGA, but we're not alone: many businesses agree, which is why 12 local Chambers of Commerce have joined us in opposing further cuts to this essential program. These chambers, from cities large and small, know that without LGA, local businesses in communities with lower-valued properties would be at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in cities with higher-valued properties.

According to the Moorhead Business Association in one of the larger cities in greater Minnesota, "the elimination or reduction of this program would not only position Moorhead at a huge disadvantage attracting new businesses, but it will be the death toll for many Moorhead businesses as it will result in business property tax increases."

Wadena is a smaller city in greater Minnesota, but like many more communities of its size, its chamber also understands that local businesses will be hurt without the LGA partnership between the State and local communities that has made Minnesota strong for the last 40 years.  Their Chamber of Commerce "understands the vital role of LGA in providing quality and essential services in small communities such as Wadena."

This would be a very different state indeed without the LGA program. The cities in greater Minnesota would be smaller and poorer with fewer jobs and businesses, while Minneapolis and Saint Paul would be places to avoid instead of destinations for visitors and job-creating centers for businesses.

Businesses and mayors both recognize this, which is why we are working together -- business and government, small and large cities, rural and urban, Republicans and Democrats -- to advocate for Local Government Aid, keep local communities strong and spread the word that we all need to work together for common-sense outcomes.

We know times are tough and everyone must give something: Minnesota's cities, large and small, have already done their part by cutting budgets and keeping costs down. But Minnesota's businesses know that we have to keep local communities strong and property taxes down in order for jobs and our economy to grow.

Now it is time for the same kind of collaboration to emerge at the Capitol. With the end of the session just weeks away, now is the time for both sides to sit down, agree on real numbers, compare truly balanced budgets and come together on a true compromise. Mayors and businesses from around Minnesota have done it: leaders at the Capitol must do the same.

(Coleman is mayor of St. Paul and Rybak is mayor of Minneapolis.)

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