The biggest scam in Minnesota politics? The intertwined three-card-monte game the DFL plays with state Local Government Aid (LGA), county and city taxes, and city budgets.
LGA, for those who weren’t paying attention, was instituted in the sixties and seventies to transfer wealth around Minnesota. Back then, it ensured outstate towns and school districts got enough money from the economically-thriving Twin Cities to support more spending. Today, it allows the metro governments – Minneapolis and Saint Paul – to launder their spending through the state, and get the parts of the state that are able to pay their own way to subsidize it.
It’s a very handy political tool. It allows city governments to spend like crack whores with stolen gold cards, of course, and hide the spending under a mountain of state money. And for the savvy mayor, paying for essential services with LGA while paying for things like Human Rights offices and $50,000 water fountains gives one incredible political leverage; using the money the city actually controls to pay off special-interest constituencies (neighborhood coalitions, toney arts organizations, unions) with the sure thing money, and using the state money – which is out of the mayors’ control to some extent – as a bludgeon to keep the peasants voters in line.
I noted this during the last budget cycle in Saint Paul, when Mayor Coleman’s annual trifecta of announcements – “taxes are rising”, “we’re laying off firemen” and “damn you, Tim Pawlenty” – have become a tradition as revered as the Winter Carnival.
Employees of the City of Minneapolis were advised Tuesday of the “extremely damaging” effect Governor Tim Pawlenty’s proposal to solve a $1.2-billion budget deficit could have on “core services.” Pawlenty’s plan would “take another $29 million out of Minneapolis’ 2010 budget,” an e-mail from Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barbara Johnson stated. On top of $21 million in previous aid cuts, the governor’s proposal would “represent a 56% cut in the Local Government Aid that Minneapolis was supposed to receive from the State in 2010.”
The text of the e-mail seems intent to incite the passions of city employees, and direct those passions toward St. Paul. This came as members of the public employee union AFSCME, a member organization of the AFL-CIO, gathered at the capitol to rally for a budget which “promotes job growth and preserves funds for local governments and state welfare programs.” Pressure is on state legislators to reject the governor’s proposal and keep cities and counties on the dole.
Read the whole thing.
It’s just as conservatives have always said; once our cities get dependent on welfare for more than a generation or two, it’s very hard to get off it.
But with the national economy continuing its Obama swan dive and the state and national moods swinging strongly againt NeoCarterism, I have a hunch the Twin Mayors are in for a rude awakening. If not this session, then soon.