City readies resolution against LGA cuts

Published 10:20 am Saturday, February 27, 2010

The city of Austin is preparing a response to the governor’s budget proposal. “No thanks,” might sum it up.

The Austin City Council on Monday will vote on a resolution requesting that Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Minnesota Legislature refrain from further Local Government Aid reductions to cities throughout the state.

The resolution comes two weeks after Pawlenty announced proposals to cut LGA to shore up a portion of the state’s $1.2 billion deficit. Albert Lea passed a similar resolution last week.

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Under Pawlenty’s proposal, Austin — which has been unalloted about $1.7 million since 2008 — would lose another $970,000 this year.

For the first time, LGA cuts would also touch Austin’s neighboring cities with fewer than 1,000 residents.

“If we were to get cut the $970,000, what would we do?” Mayor Tom Stiehm asked. “That could potentially mean layoffs, tax increases, or both. I assume it’s just not going to be a pretty picture for the city.”

The resolution presses that services at risk following LGA cuts include police, fire, snowplowing, libraries, parks and public infrastructure.

Year Certified LGA Reduction

2008 $7,620,976 $452,110

2009 $7,766,163 $380,012

2010 $7,999,283 $876,833

2010 Governor’s budget $7,999,283 $1.8M (unallotment + new cuts)

Source: The office of city administrator Jim Hurm

“Austin needs LGA to keep taxes down,” city administrator Jim Hurm said in a written statement. “LGA is a long-standing, state policy… It is not simply a state program or a budget line to be easily cut.”

Minnesota has faced red ink for much of Pawlenty’s two terms, and his final budget proposal relies on erasing the deficit by heavily limiting spending, without increasing state taxes —inflicting cuts on programs targeted before.

In addition to $250 million slashed from aid to local units of government, the proposal cuts $347 million from health and human service programs; $181 million from state agencies and other programs; and $47 million from higher education funding.

Spared from cuts are K-12 schools, military, and veterans aid programs and state troopers.

If passed, Austin’s resolution will be sent to the governor, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, Senate Minority Leader David Senjem and to members of the Legislature, urging the rejection of the governor’s proposed LGA cuts.

“It’s really not fair. We’re trying to get that message through to the governor,” Stiehm said.