Council approves resolution against LGA cuts

Published 7:37 am Tuesday, March 2, 2010

With little fanfare, Austin City Council on Monday passed a resolution that voices opposition to the governor’s proposed cut to Local Government Aid.

Council was able to act quickly and with only brief discussion because the threat to LGA — money the state sends primarily to outstate cities to help balance the financial playing field across Minnesota — has already received its share of local attention and criticism.

For instance, council members and local officials are well aware that Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget proposal calls for roughly $970,000 in cuts to Austin this year, which would come on top of more than $1.1 million slashed via the governor’s controversial power of unallotment over the past year.

Email newsletter signup

With LGA making up a significant portion of the city’s budget year-in and year-out, it was no surprise that support for the resolution was so strong.

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

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

When the resolution passed by a swift 7-0 vote, councilman Dick Pacholl added that the city should take it one step further and motion for Pawlenty to resign, which drew a few chuckles.

But despite opposition from Austin and other smaller cities, Pawlenty may very well be able to enact his proposed cuts later this year. By state law, the Legislature must have a balanced budget by the end of the legislative session in May. That budget, of course, requires either the support of the governor or a veto-proof majority in the Legislature to pass.

Last spring, when a budget was not agreed upon by the end of the session, Pawlenty used the power of unallotment to slash funds from various sources across the state, including city governments.

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