You just can’t keep some people happy.
The media and DFL have been chanting for the past week that Emmer hasn’t released his plan for completely re-engineering government. I pretty well walked through the reasons not to yesterday.
But another reason might be that Emmer knows – as anyone who watches the Minnesota DFL can figure out – that actually answering questions isn’t the issue.
One area where Emmer has put out actual numbers and concrete proposals is the issue of Local Government Aid.
And yet one of the DFL’s latest chanting points is that “Tom Emmer wants to eliminate Local Government Aid. The four DFL candidates Dayton, Anderson-Kelliher, Entenza, and “Independence” Party DFL-Lite candidate Horner all duly parroted the line at the “Green” debate, and Minnesota’s huge class of government hangers-on has uncritically adopted the line.
Naturally, it’s not true.
- …was originally intended to subsidize basic services in poor outstate cities,
- …has been completely inverted, with the Twin Cities, Minnesota and Duluth getting 2.5 times as much LGA per capita as the rest of Minnesota’s cities,
- …has become a vast money-laundering scam, to intended to conceal profligate local spending by fobbing it off on the rest of the state, and thus…
- …causing the Big Three cities to act like a heroin addict deprived of his fix when the funds are cut at all; the Big Three cities have become used to being able to hide their excesses by paying for it with other peoples’ money; when LGA gets cut, they face what would be a sisyphean choice for most government bodies, to cut or to raise taxes. For the DFL-dominated cities, it’s not really a choice; they raise taxes and pass the proverbial buck.
So LGA has become a political kicktoy; big cities need it to keep up the spending and so secure their constituencies and still avoid the pain of excessive tax hikes; the Republicans in their base – the exurbs – understandably ask why it is that a program that was supposed to ensure that Middle River could pay for a water plant now forces Minnetonka, which gets no LGA at all, to pay for Saint Paul’s fire department, so Chris Coleman can build more indoor ice rinks.
As Emmer’s campaign notes on its website notes on its website, Emmer has sought to stop the insanity:
Tom Emmer is the author of the Minnesota Fair Plan, a bill that would institute a new program to replace (not eliminate) the current system of local government aid (LGA). The Bill was HF 339 of the 86th Legislative Session of the Minnesota Legislature.
The Minnesota Fair Plan would eliminate the current practice of allocating LGA resources by city, a process that has proven rife with political wrangling, with a more equitable system of pooling LGA resources by county and placing responsibility for the distribution of such funds to the county commission. This is hardly the equivalent of “eliminating LGA.”
Emmer’s worked as a defense attorney; I suspect he’s had to shepherd more than a few defendants through spin-dry, and he knows that addicts like crackheads and major cities don’t just recover from their addictions instantly:
The transition from the current system to the new system is designed to take place over several years, to allow city councils to adjust to the Minnesota Fair Plan.
The base level of LGA will be reduced to 40% of the 2009 level for cities over three years with the balance of the funds given to counties to distribute among any and all of the localities within their county as they see fit. The total amount of LGA available will continue to be determined by the legislature. The amount for the current fiscal year listed in the bill was $526,148,487; or just over a half billion dollars.
Half a billion dollars. To be accurate, the total LGA amount for 2009 (the year Emmer introduced the bill) was $526,141,547 – about $7,000 less than Emmer’s proposal, according to League of Minnesota Cities figures.
So what Emmer has actually proposed isn’t eliminating LGA; it’s taking the cities’ share (all cities, from Middle River to Minneapolis) out of the cities’ hands and issuing it (over time) to the counties.
It’s not a matter of money; it’s a matter of control. The DFL wants it; Emmer’s proposal would put a speed bump in the way – another level of accountability.
And the DFL hates speed bumps on the road to your wallet.