Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, Feb. 3

Views by the Echo Press Editorial Board. Topics: Local Government Aid, fake parking tickets, fake stamps, retirement haven

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Smaller cities shorted

Thumbs Down: It was disappointing to see that Gov. Walz’s budget plan did not provide more funding for Local Government Aid, which is a lifeline for smaller Greater Minnesota cities such as Alexandria and other cities in Douglas County. Cities rely on LGA to pay for essential services, such as fire protection and streets, and most importantly, to keep property taxes down. A lot of dollars are at stake here. Two examples: Alexandria is set to receive $1,608,142 in LGA this year, and Osakis $521,701. Even though the state has a record budget surplus of $17.6 billion, Walz’s proposal includes just a $30 million increase to LGA, which doesn’t even keep up with inflation. The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities made a good case to increase LGA five times that amount – to $150 million. The coalition points out that since 2009, LGA has only grown by 17% while inflation based on the measure of state and local government has increased by 55%. Also, LGA’s share of the state’s general fund has shrunk from 3.3% to 2.1% since 2009. “Without a significant increase to LGA, cities across the state will have no choice but to raise property taxes, cut services, or both,” said Brian Holmer, mayor of Thief River Fall and president of the coalition. “In a time where everyone is feeling the pressures of inflation and the state has plenty of money to go around, this proposal is surprising and disappointing.”

Fake parking tickets

Thumbs Down: Here’s a new twist on an old scam that the Better Business Bureau is reporting: fake parking tickets. Scammers are using new technology to create parking tickets that look surprisingly official, the BBB warns. How the scam works: You park in a legal parking zone or pay to park on the street or in a garage. While you are away from your car, scammers use high-tech, hand-held printers to make a fake ticket and leave it on your car's windshield. This phony citation usually asks you to pay online or via PayPal. Also, your personal information will now be in the hands of scammers. Follow these BBB tips: 1. Know before you park. Before visiting a new place, research available parking and local parking requirements. Tourists with out-of-state plates are often the preferred target for parking scams because they need to familiarize themselves with local parking laws. 2. Examine the citation carefully. Scammers can imitate logos and city office names, but an imitation website is usually where the scam comes to light. 3. Double-check the name checks should be made out to. If the ticket allows for payment by check, take a closer look at the address the check should be sent and how it should be addressed. Checks should generally be made to a specific government organization, not a string of initials or personal names. 4. Pay traffic citations by credit card when possible. It will be easier to contest fraudulent charges if you discover you've been scammed down the road.

Counterfeit stamps

Thumbs Down: And on the topic of scams, here’s another to watch out for: counterfeit stamps. The United States Postal Service issued a warning about bogus stamps being sold online. Postal officials say if you are looking online for a good deal on postage stamps and see a substantial discount of up to 50% or more off an order of United States Forever stamps, it may be too good to be true. Consumers are urged to keep scrolling because the "great" deal on these stamps probably means they are counterfeit. Scammers use social media marketplaces, e-commerce sites via third party vendors, and other websites to push the counterfeit stamps. Officials say these stamps are often sold in large quantities at a significant discount – ranging from 20% to 50% of their face value. And that is a tell-tale sign they're bogus.

Minnesota is the place to be

Thumbs Up: Looking for the best place to retire? You don’t have to look very far. Minnesota is the second best state to enjoy your retirement, according to new research from the Global Residence Index. The research used the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Better Life Index as inspiration to help decide the most important factors. They include air quality, life expectancy, violent crime reports, environment quality, Medicaid spending and 65-plus populations. Washington was ranked first. Minnesota was ranked the top state for social support, such as exercise, volunteerism and insurance. The worst state to spend your golden years? Alabama.

If you have a suggestion for a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, email it to or mail it to Echo Press, P.O. Box 549, Alexandria, MN 56308.

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