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Rural cities concerned by House budget plan

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities told rural representatives on Monday that the House budget plan leaves out room for expanded state aid to cities.

"We believe that failure to increase funding for LGA this year is tantamount to a tax increase," the coalition's John Sundvor said.

The coalition and others who support LGA increases say added state aid would mean local governments can keep their property tax increases down.

Democrats who control the House regularly have complained that Gov. Tim Pawlenty and fellow Republicans have cut aid so much that cities and other local governments have been forced to increase property taxes to make up the difference. A 2003 cut of $150 million, to help balance a state budget deficit, never was fully restored. Since the cut, Sundvor said, the state added $48 million back.

When combined with movement to eliminate the rural economic development Job Opportunity Building Zones program, "this is a very decidedly un-rural budget in the House," Sundvor said.

Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden, the coalition vice president, wrote to representatives that legislators who use a budget deficit as an excuse to not increase state aid "are ignoring the needs of their constituents."

"If more money is not made available for LGA, local property taxes will almost certainly escalate even higher while needed services continue to be cut," he wrote.

Lawmakers last year approved adding $70 million to LGA, but Pawlenty vetoed the bill.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.