ST. PAUL, Minn. — Mayors from around Minnesota said Wednesday they'll be able to maintain their fire and police staffing, tackle backlogs of local road projects and pay down debt thanks to an $80 million bump in state aid to cities.
The increased local government aid also means $40 million more for counties and $10 million for townships. The mayors gave a sampling of what the new aid means to them during an appearance with state Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans.
Local government aid was an attractive target for state budget cutters over the years, which local officials have blamed for making sharp property tax increase unavoidable.
In approving the higher allowances, legislative Democrats said they hoped it would ease pressure on homeowner tax bills. To make sure, the Legislature also imposed a one-year cap that limits the amount property taxes can rise.
Some Republican lawmakers argued against the state aid infusion by saying it only increases the appetite for government spending
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said his goal is to keep the city tax levy flat in his next budget. Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren said he is looking at reducing his levy now that more state money is coming in.
Others said the extra allowance and a revised distribution formula gives them breathing room after years of governing through fiscal crises.
"We have some stability and some consistency. Many cities operate basically just one disaster away from dissolution," said Paynesville Mayor Jeff Thompson, president of the Minnesota Association of Small Cities. "This will help greater Minnesota and small cities survive."
The Legislature also approved $120 million more for direct-to-homeowner tax breaks and exempted cities and counties from having to pay state sales tax on their purchases.