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Leaders of small cities unhappy with aid amount

City leaders in Greater Minnesota — including the mayor of Alexandria — are voicing frustration with their legislators this week after the Tax Conference Committee unveiled a tax bill proposal that they claim fails to adequately invest in rural communities.

The tax plan, released Monday night by the joint House and Senate conference committee, includes a $6 million increase in Local Government Aid funding for 2018. Because it is just a one-time, one-year increase, the aid would revert back to its current funding level in 2019.

City leaders argue the amount does little to address the growing needs of their cities and is unacceptable given the state's current solid financial footing.

"Greater Minnesota is once again left out and left behind in the tax bill," said Sara Carlson, mayor of Alexandria and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. "With a $1.65 billion budget surplus and in the context of a $1.15 billion tax plan, the Legislature can and should do better for LGA."

An aid increase is the number one priority for the coalition this legislative session. The organization is advocating for a $45.5 million increase for the 2018-19 biennium, the amount needed to bring the program back to its 2002 funding level.

Because the Legislature has not passed an aid increase in the past two years, the $6 million bump in this year's conference committee tax proposal would not even begin to cover a basic inflationary increase, according to city leaders.

"Rural Minnesotans and Greater Minnesota cities should be and will be upset if this LGA situation is not rectified," Carlson said. "LGA is essential to keeping our communities healthy and our property taxes down. With just over two weeks left in session, now is the time to speak up and let our legislators know that LGA is too important to be ignored. Before the session ends, the Legislature and governor must come to an agreement on a significant permanent increase."

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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