MOORHEAD, Minn. — Punishing Minneapolis, including its businesses, makes for good politics in outstate Minnesota. Republicans, interested more in obtaining power than actual governing, are more than willing to play the game.

There's a fight in the Legislature over whether state aid should be doled out to Minneapolis to help local businesses recover from last year's riots inspired by the killing of George Floyd.

Republicans screech "no," and that DFL politicians like Gov. Tim Walz and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey need to clean up their own mess.

Walz, rightly, says the state needs a vibrant Minneapolis and so the aid is necessary.

"But why should MY tax dollars subsidize the big city?" scream rural taxpayers.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

The answer is simple.

Because metropolitan area tax dollars subsidize you, rural Minnesota, and has for decades.

The seven-county metro area, including Hennepin County in which Minneapolis is located, have long paid far more in tax dollars than it receives back in state investment. We're talking education, infrastructure, roads, the whole shebang.

You know those shiny new water treatment plants that outstate cities build with bonding bill dollars? The majority of that tax money comes from the Twin Cities metro.

You know those miles of County State Aid Highways in your area that you use, probably every day? Those city slickers in the metro area, including the liberals in Minneapolis, pay for those, too.

Republicans know all this, of course. Legislative research has long revealed the disparity between what the metro pays and what it gets back. But it's not good politics for a rural Republican like Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont to admit it, so she says things about Minneapolis like, "I've heard over and over again from greater Minnesota, from my constituents: 'Please do not pay for this out of our taxpayer dollars.'"

A 2011 legislative study, already a decade old, showed that Hennepin County paid out $64 million more in taxes that went to roads than it got back. Ramsey County (St. Paul) paid out $20 million more. The story was the same for all the metro counties. They paid out far more than they received.

And rural Minnesota? Sixty counties, all nonmetro, received more tax money for roads than it paid. Martin County, Rosen's home territory, received 153% of the money it contributed.

Lake of the Woods County got 480% of what it paid. Kittson County in the far northwest got 412%.

That, my rural conservative friends, is the definition of socialism — the redistribution of money from the wealthy to the poor to benefit the whole. It's a deal states have long made so rural areas can have nice things, too.

And the thanks Minneapolis residents get? Republicans stomp on them for cheap political gain. But let's talk unity, right?

We've said it before, we'll say it forever. The narrative that Democrats must find a way to connect with rural Minnesotans dominates the media. Republicans, though, can tell citizens of the state's most important city to drop dead and nobody bats an eye.

Seems hypocritical, doesn't it?

Readers can reach Forum News Service columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 451-5655