No sooner had Rep. Duane Quam (R-Byron) suggested bleeding $85 million in state aid to Minnesota's three largest cities, the incensed mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul cried foul.
A House GOP proposal would slash $40 million a year from Minneapolis, $34 million from St. Paul, and $20 million from Duluth. The remaining funds are less than half of what those cities were promised in local government aid in 2013 to keep police and fire departments afloat.
Quam reasoned that Minnesota's first-class metros don't need all that money because they have a large enough tax base to cover the difference. Local government aid should be reserved for small cities that can't afford to operate without it, he said.
Yet Quam's measure would affect only three of Minnesota's four first-class cities. Rochester would get out of the deal with its budget intact, and the DFL believes that has something to do with the fact Rochester has only Republican senators. Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth have all DFL representatives in both the House and Senate.
Doubly strange, there's no mention of recycling the $85 million cuts to small towns in outstate Minnesota. The state will simply wash its hands of those expenditures.
Mayors Chris Coleman of St. Paul and Betsy Hodges of Minneapolis are inconsolable. In a fiery statement on Wednesday, Coleman cried partisan attack.
"This proposal is just one more blatantly political push by the House GOP Caucus aiming to pit rural communities against their urban neighbors," Coleman said. "That narrative may be politically expedient, but driving a wedge through our state is damaging to the people they represent."
The "draconic cuts" would close libraries and parks even if St. Paul property taxpayers stepped up to share the burden, he said.
Hodges called on Quam and other Republicans to remember where Minnesota's $2 billion surplus came from. "The state has balanced its budgets on the backs of cities over and over for the last decade," she said. "Minneapolis contributes far more to the state in sales, income, and property taxes than it receives."
Still, Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) backed Quam up to say it wasn't fair that "Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth are getting so much more than other cities across the state per capita," according to the Star Trib.
That factoid just isn't true, House Democrats shot back Thursday. Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis) tried to make the point by reciting the 449 cities and towns in Minnesota that receive more local government aid per person than Minneapolis. Republicans didn't appreciate the stunt and shouted him down.
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