Friday, March 26, 2010

As budget cuts become norm at the capitol in St. Paul, one of the places state lawmakers are finding money to cut is in Local Government Aid (LGA). LGA is a program where the state of Minnesota gives money to localities, often times with money going into the county or city's general funds. This money then goes towards services and the running of local governments. The reasoning behind LGA is that often times towns and cities cannot raise all of the necessary funds to provide services. Because localities often rely heavily on property taxes, there are places where there is not enough of a tax base to provide services while keeping property taxes low. As we have discussed in class, property taxes are often politically difficult and LGA helps keep property taxes lower by providing state funds instead of making localities levy additional property taxes to get funding. One issue that has arisen is the property tax cap passed in 2008 at the state level that prevents localities from raising property taxes enough to cover the lost LGA revenue.

The two main sides in this budget argument are exemplified by Tim Pawlenty who argues that cities are overspending and need to cut back in the current economic times. His side believes that only by cutting funding will the cities look for more efficient ways of running. The other side can be seen in the view of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities who argue that they are reliant on these funds and cuts to LGA will result in cuts to vital services. They believe that they are running as efficiently as possible and the loss of LGA is making them take unreasonable measures to balance budgets.

The question then becomes what is essential and what is not? Does a town of 412 people need a police force or would the county sherriff suffice? What role do parks and community centers play in our societies? What about libraries? Are support staff an absolute necessity, an unnecessary luxury or somewhere in-between? These are decisions cities have started making and will continue to be made as these cuts go through.

P.S. Reading the comments at the bottom of hyperlinked articles helps to give an idea about how contentious this fight is.

See how much LGA your city has recieved and what the potential cuts are

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