Chanting Points Memo: LGA Cuts Are Killing Minnesota! (Part 1)

I wrote about it yesterday:  the regional left wants to make Governor Pawlenty’s cuts to the “Local Government Aid” program a major issue in the campaign.

If there is any justice – and if Minnesotans can read numbers – it should backfire badly on the DFL.

I wrote yesterday about a piece in Twin Cities leftyblog MNPublius written by Jeff Rosenberg, which led:

As Tim Pawlenty tries to walk into the sunset, he’s got one small problem: He’s left Minnesotans a complete mess.

He went on to quote heavily from a WCCO TV report that showed how grievously cities around Minnesota are suffering because of Governor Pawlenty’s cuts to LGA.

We’ll address the “cuts” later in this series. 


But for today, let’s just talk history. 

“Local Government Aid” was a scheme hatched in the late sixties and early seventies.  There are really two ways to look at it:

“Political Welfare” – Just as “welfare” in its purest, most generally-accepted form seeks to put a safety net over the abyss of poverty, and “corporate welfare” tries to help businesses create jobs in communities that might not otherwise exist (often for good reason), LGA started out as welfare for cities; the state’s taxpayers would subsidize the less well-off parts of the state by redistributing wealth from the parts of the state that were prospering.  At that time, of course, it was the wealthy metro area  subsidizing relatively poor outstate Minnesota.  

But forty years of DFL mismanagement have turned the major cities – Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth into fiscal basket cases; outstate Minnesota is holding its own; the suburbs, especially the Twin Cities’ booming southern and western ‘burbs, are absolutely booming.

And like the original intentions of the personal and corporate welfare systems, Minnesota’s political welfare system, Local Government Aid, has been perverted far outside its original scope.

Which means LGA really more closely resembles…

Money Laundering: Originally intended to give small, poor outstate governments and schools a hand, it now subsidizes DFL-dominated city governments to a vastly disproportionate degree.  And it allows those city governments to diffuse the accountability for their own wasteful, featherbedded spending.

Look at it this way:  A city spends 10 million dollars.  They want to spend fifteen million dollars.  What do you suppose is going to be an easier pill to shove down the city’s taxpayers’ throats?

  • A 50% hike in property taxes?
  • No change in property taxes, and a five million dollar subsidy gotten from the state’s three million taxpayers?

Because when you’re a politician, the best kind of accountability is the kind you fob off on someione else.

And while the DFL caterwauls about the losses that LGA cuts have supposedly inflicted on the cities, the numbers show a very, very different story;  LGA cuts have been far outstripped by property tax hikes.

More, including numbers – lots and lots of numbers – tomorrow.

6 thoughts on “Chanting Points Memo: LGA Cuts Are Killing Minnesota! (Part 1)

  1. There’s a third issue that I think needs to be considered as well – since LGA was created there have been a number of demographic changes that affect how badly a particular service may actually be needed. People are having smaller families and a lot of towns have shrunk in population and it may not make sense to continue to provide or pay for the same level of local services.

    Example: my godmother lives in Stuart which shares (or shared) a school district with Brownton and they’ve been fighting against attempts to raise property taxes to fund a school that had twelve kids in my cousin’s graduating class. It would be a lot more cost effective to bus the few kids that attend to a neighboring district in Glencoe but some of the locals don’t want to give up having “their” school even though the kids could be educated in a neighboring school district.

    It isn’t just that LGA helps cities and towns pay for more frivolous things like convention centers and sports arenas (there’s that problem too) but it also puts off having to make tough, rational decisions because someone else is picking up the tab for the status quo.

  2. Thorley,

    On this last, I have to disagree at least in part: while classroom sizes have little to no effect on the quality of education, size and proximity of school do.

    The few remaining one-room local schoolhouses have among the best educational results in the state, while students at the big consolidated schools – which often grow to be as big as our awful urban schools – are mixed-to-poor compared with the schools they replaced.

  3. How can LGA kill Minnesota when every LGA dollar starts and ends within Minnesota? In practice, the money flows to the poorest run cities, which means they don’t have to reform, which means they get worse. Which is bad for Minnesota, right? Killing it, perhaps?

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