Letter: Thankful for good governance and the restoration of LGA

Published 8:24 am Wednesday, June 5, 2019

We started out the legislative session with the promise of “One Minnesota” and Gov. Tim Walz made restoration of Local Government Aid (LGA) a leading priority as he recognized Greater Minnesota’s number one issue towards this mantra. Walz and legislative leaders delivered on that promise as the legislature lurched towards the finish line. We applaud the restoration of LGA to its 2002 levels over a two-year period by providing $26 million in 2020 and an additional $4 million in 2021.

Minnesota cities like Austin have been hamstrung by our state partners as inflation over the past 17 years has eroded the value of LGA funding and has resulted in a reduction of the buying power by 55 percent of the same funding level today. While the funding for Austin in 2020 will be an additional $326,000, it was clear the relationship of the state to local units of government has been at a crossroads. State spending has increased by 65 percent from 2002 levels as LGA continued to languish and many were concerned if we’d ever garner the support to restore the program. We now see hope in the foundational support LGA provides because Minnesota does well when all of its cities are strengthened by LGA by which core city services are delivered.

Another key legislative issue transpired after an unknown legislative change in 2013 came to our attention in what was thought to be just a technical corrections bill. This modification found Austin struggling to utilize fire insurance premiums for our obligations for part-time and full-time firefighters’ pensions. We had for years divided the resources paid by Austin residents and business owners to our obligations for firefighter pensions. Tucked into several places, Rep. Jeanne Poppe and Sen. Dan Sparks were able to correct this initial mistake, but it took a concerted effort that demonstrated it’s never easy to enact legislation. We appreciate their concerted effort to have this issue addressed once and for all. This will provide a permanent solution that otherwise left a financial deficit of $70,000 annually.

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We’re thankful for important signs of bi-partisanship and government that works for Austin and all Minnesotans. We know there are other pressing needs and items that could have been addressed, but by and large this legislative session was a win from the City’s perspective.

Craig Clark

Austin city administrator