Our opinion: Visit highlights LGA funding

Published 8:12 am Friday, April 19, 2019

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan hit the nail on the head Tuesday when she very succinctly noted the need for Local Government Aid in an effort to further enhance and support MInnesota’s communities.

“LGA funding is really just common sense,” Flanagan said during a roundtable discussion with Austin and Albert Lea city officials at Austin’s Wastewater Treatment Center. “We want to be your partners.”

Regardless of how you feel about new Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s budget proposal, one thing that all communities outside of the metro area should find reason to support is LGA funding and for a reason why, all you have to do is look inside your own community.

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Cities throughout Greater Minnesota are struggling to improve their own infrastructure needs at high cost to the city and its taxpayers. Austin’s own Wastewater Treatment Center is the perfect example.

The city of Austin is currently in the process of estimating the cost of bringing the aging center up to specs. A cost that had been hovering around $40 million for improvements has jumped to $73 million as the situation with the plant becomes clearer.

This is a steep price tag for the city to deal with if it stays this high, and given the age of the plant, $73 million can’t be ruled out as being close to the final price tag.

Compare that to the $8.1 million Austin benefits from LGA currently. It’s a drop in the bucket of the $73 million estimate, but it’s still much needed help. Otherwise Austin taxpayers will be on the hook for all of the money needed to fix the deteriorating piece of infrastructure.

But LGA goes beyond bringing infrastructure up to code in Greater Minnesota cities. It goes toward things like emergency services: police and fire departments and making sure these services are at a place to best serve their communities and citizens.

We applaud the governor’s request for $30 million more to be added to the LGA funds and believe it is not just a good step forward, but a necessary step forward for communities to not only bring their cities up to the operating needs required, but also allows for the equal footing of all communities within the state of Minnesota.

Rep. Melissa Hortman, current speaker of the Minnesota House and who also accompanied Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan to Austin Tuesday, summed it up nicely when she said, “It’s important for a government to not only look into cost, but value.”

We hope that for all their differences, senators and representatives of the Minnesota Legislature can work together to ensure that LGA funding remains protected so that our cities and communities can benefit for the future.