Sections

Weather Forecast

Close
J.D. Burton, left, an attorney with the law firm of Flaherty & Hood, spoke to members of the Detroit Lakes City Council Monday on the LGA issue. (Brian Basham/DL Newspaper)

Thanks to Pawlenty, Detroit Lakes wins the battle, but loses the LGA war

Email Sign up for Breaking News Alerts
News Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501 http://www.dl-online.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/5/0304/6-17cgmcguy.jpg?itok=ILE8tfNz
Detroit Lakes Online
Thanks to Pawlenty, Detroit Lakes wins the battle, but loses the LGA war
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities nearly doubled the amount of money it spent lobbying the Legislature last year -- from about $600,000 to about $1 million.

It was a bold gamble, and paid off handsomely in preserving Local Government Aid to cities -- or would have, if not for Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his unilateral "unallotment" cuts.

Even though the budget passed by the Legislature would have spared any more cuts to LGA, Pawlenty vetoed the tax bill that would have paid for that budget.

And to help fill the resulting $2.7 billion shortfall, he announced Tuesday he plans to cut $192 million from the LGA program over the next two years.

If the governor follows through in July, it will mean $123,000 in lost revenue for Detroit Lakes this year and an additional loss of $284,000 next year.

Frazee will lose $24,000 this year and an additional $55,000 next year.

LGA provides property tax relief for cities, and the loss of that revenue means property taxes will have to be raised, services will have to be cut, or reserves will have to be spent.

Cities with populations under 1,000 will be spared any LGA cuts.

"The effects of cutting aid from Minnesota communities are as predictable as a Minnesota winter -- every year we see higher property taxes and cuts to critical services," Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden said in a news release. He is president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.

Over the past six years, Minnesota cities have lost $750 million in local government aid, and as a result property taxes have increased over 65 percent statewide. This increase in property taxes, however, has fallen short of replacing the lost aid, so essential city services have also been cut back, said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

"Minnesota communities were critically hurt today by the governor's action," he said Tuesday, "and nearly every Minnesotan will personally be affected. It could be in the form of no cop in their kid's school, higher property taxes, or a local library that is no longer open ... Many Minnesotans will think in the coming year that this is not the state they knew, or the state they want it to be."

Tied into the LGA issue is the fact that the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities has come under fire, by the governor, among others, for spending so much on lobbying the Legislature. Much of it on the LGA issue.

Detroit Lakes spent $13,640 on lobbying last year, most of that through dues to the Coalition of Greater Minnesota cities.

By comparison, Frazee spent $725 on lobbying, mostly through dues to a different organization, the League of Minnesota Cities.

Lake Park spent $99 lobbying, again, through dues to the League of Minnesota Cities.

Becker County spent about $3,000 lobbying the legislature through its organization, the Association of Minnesota Counties.

A big chunk of the lobbying money spent by the Coalition of Minnesota Counties ($879,000) went to the law firm of Flaherty & Hood, P.A.

J.D. Burton, an attorney with Flaherty & Hood, met with Detroit Lakes City Council members Monday to talk about the legislative session, Local Government Aid and the unallotment process, and to answer any questions.

"Clearly," he said, "with the budget issue, LGA took a lot of time out of the session and continues to take a lot of time today."

The coalition's goal was to minimize LGA cuts, and to "make sure legislators understand LGA and what it's used for," he said.

There was also a media campaign to "let people know it's designed to keep property taxes lower," he added.

"LGA is part of the Minnesota Miracle," Burton said. "Regardless of where you live, you're entitled to have property taxes at a reasonable rate and the same basic services -- it shouldn't matter where you live, it's a fairness issue."

The coalition's message "ended up being very successful with the Legislature -- ultimately there was a zero cut to LGA," he said. "But now there's a $2.7 billion deficit to make up."

Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk said the cuts in LGA will hurt.

"For us it's either lay off people or drain our working capital down to a point that's not financially responsible, or raise our taxes up," he said.

A state-imposed levy cap does not apply to lost LGA funds -- cities can raise property taxes to replace them, Burton said.

Alderman Ron Zeman told Burton the Coalition of Minnesota Cities seems to be getting too partisan.

"The Wadena mayor, he's making it tough on cities right now with his comments against the governor. He almost polarizes the governor with some of his comments ... You need to remember Republicans and Democrats are both in city government," he added. "You need to be impartial and unbiased."

Burton agreed, but said the coalition has to respond when the governor twists the facts.

For example, saying cities should spend down reserves is disingenuous when cities essentially get paid just twice a year and depend on reserves to see them through the rest of the year, Burton said.

The governor is also wrong when he says his LGA cuts are just 5 percent of the total, since cities also lost 2-4 percent earlier this year. That's the cut that cost Detroit Lakes its lifeguards and warming house personnel at Lincoln Rink.

"The governor won't work with us," an apologetic Burton said. "We feel we have to correct the record with the governor."

Pawlenty has also called on cities to fire their lobbyists, and some have -- St. Cloud has pulled out of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, for example. But while four cities have left, Burton said 77 cities remain in the organization, and disbanding would be a mistake.

"The governor's office has lobbyists, the suburbs have lobbyists -- the positions of greater Minnesota cities are unique, and they need to get the message out -- we have been very successful with the Legislature. Unfortunately, the executive branch is in charge and making cuts."

It was a bold gamble, and paid off handsomely in preserving Local Government Aid to cities -- or would have, if not for Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his unilateral "unallotment" cuts.

Even though the budget passed by the Legislature would have spared any more cuts to LGA, Pawlenty vetoed the tax bill that would have paid for that budget.

And to help fill the resulting $2.7 billion shortfall, he announced Tuesday he plans to cut $192 million from the LGA program over the next two years.

If the governor follows through in July, it will mean $123,000 in lost revenue for Detroit Lakes this year and an additional loss of $284,000 next year.

Frazee will lose $24,000 this year and an additional $55,000 next year.

LGA provides property tax relief for cities, and the loss of that revenue means property taxes will have to be raised, services will have to be cut, or reserves will have to be spent.

Cities with populations under 1,000 will be spared any LGA cuts.

"The effects of cutting aid from Minnesota communities are as predictable as a Minnesota winter -- every year we see higher property taxes and cuts to critical services," Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden said in a news release. He is president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.

Over the past six years, Minnesota cities have lost $750 million in local government aid, and as a result property taxes have increased over 65 percent statewide. This increase in property taxes, however, has fallen short of replacing the lost aid, so essential city services have also been cut back, said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

"Minnesota communities were critically hurt today by the governor's action," he said Tuesday, "and nearly every Minnesotan will personally be affected. It could be in the form of no cop in their kid's school, higher property taxes, or a local library that is no longer open ... Many Minnesotans will think in the coming year that this is not the state they knew, or the state they want it to be."

Tied into the LGA issue is the fact that the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities has come under fire, by the governor, among others, for spending so much on lobbying the Legislature. Much of it on the LGA issue.

Detroit Lakes spent $13,640 on lobbying last year, most of that through dues to the Coalition of Greater Minnesota cities.

By comparison, Frazee spent $725 on lobbying, mostly through dues to a different organization, the League of Minnesota Cities.

Lake Park spent $99 lobbying, again, through dues to the League of Minnesota Cities.

Becker County spent about $3,000 lobbying the legislature through its organization, the Association of Minnesota Counties.

A big chunk of the lobbying money spent by the Coalition of Minnesota Counties ($879,000) went to the law firm of Flaherty & Hood, P.A.

J.D. Burton, an attorney with Flaherty & Hood, met with Detroit Lakes City Council members Monday to talk about the legislative session, Local Government Aid and the unallotment process, and to answer any questions.

"Clearly," he said, "with the budget issue, LGA took a lot of time out of the session and continues to take a lot of time today."

The coalition's goal was to minimize LGA cuts, and to "make sure legislators understand LGA and what it's used for," he said.

There was also a media campaign to "let people know it's designed to keep property taxes lower," he added.

"LGA is part of the Minnesota Miracle," Burton said. "Regardless of where you live, you're entitled to have property taxes at a reasonable rate and the same basic services -- it shouldn't matter where you live, it's a fairness issue."

The coalition's message "ended up being very successful with the Legislature -- ultimately there was a zero cut to LGA," he said. "But now there's a $2.7 billion deficit to make up."

Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk said the cuts in LGA will hurt.

"For us it's either lay off people or drain our working capital down to a point that's not financially responsible, or raise our taxes up," he said.

A state-imposed levy cap does not apply to lost LGA funds -- cities can raise property taxes to replace them, Burton said.

Alderman Ron Zeman told Burton the Coalition of Minnesota Cities seems to be getting too partisan.

"The Wadena mayor, he's making it tough on cities right now with his comments against the governor. He almost polarizes the governor with some of his comments ... You need to remember Republicans and Democrats are both in city government," he added. "You need to be impartial and unbiased."

Burton agreed, but said the coalition has to respond when the governor twists the facts.

For example, saying cities should spend down reserves is disingenuous when cities essentially get paid just twice a year and depend on reserves to see them through the rest of the year, Burton said.

The governor is also wrong when he says his LGA cuts are just 5 percent of the total, since cities also lost 2-4 percent earlier this year. That's the cut that cost Detroit Lakes its lifeguards and warming house personnel at Lincoln Rink.

"The governor won't work with us," an apologetic Burton said. "We feel we have to correct the record with the governor."

Pawlenty has also called on cities to fire their lobbyists, and some have -- St. Cloud has pulled out of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, for example. But while four cities have left, Burton said 77 cities remain in the organization, and disbanding would be a mistake.

"The governor's office has lobbyists, the suburbs have lobbyists -- the positions of greater Minnesota cities are unique, and they need to get the message out -- we have been very successful with the Legislature. Unfortunately, the executive branch is in charge and making cuts."

Advertisement