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Minnesota's cities, counties, school districts and local government associations spent more than $7.8 million on state lobbying last year.
The 2012 Legislative session featured a fierce fight between communities over the site of the new Vikings stadium. Unsurprisingly, the communities that spent the most on lobbying last year were the ones with the biggest stake in the Legislature's decision.
The annual report on local government lobbying, released Wednesday by the state auditor's office, found that 10 communities or government associations each spent more than $100,000 lobbying in St. Paul last year.
Minneapolis spent more than $394,000; Hennepin County spent another $213,000; the Metropolitan Sports Authority Commission spent almost $341,000; Ramsey County spent $145,000; St. Paul spent $123,000; and Anoka County spent $121,000.
In 2012, 81 local governments spent a combined $3.9 million to send lobbyists to the Capitol. The 2012 session, among other things, was when the Legislature was trying to decide on a location for the new Vikings stadium and passed a $500 million bonding bill.
Local governments also spent an additional $10.6 million on dues to local government associations that also lobbied on their behalf in St. Paul. Those associations — which include the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota School Boards Association — spent another $3.9 million on lobbying, funded by those dues.
Even so, those lobbying tallies are almost half a million dollars less than local governments spent on lobbying in 2011.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto, who issued the state's annual lobbying report Wednesday, noted that the decrease isn't unexpected.
"There is a traditional pattern of lobbying expenses being higher during the longer legislative budget session and lower during the shorter bonding session," Otto said in a statement.
"This report covers calendar year 2012, which was a shorter bonding session. Overall lobbying expenses showed the traditional decrease."
Minneapolis spent $467,139 on lobbying in 2011.
The coming 2014 session will be another bonding year, and Minnesota communities have already put in almost $1 billion worth of requests. Minneapolis' bonding requests include: $25 million to revitalize Nicollet Mall; $8.5 million for renovations at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Cowles Conservancy; and $10 million for a new east river channel on Hall's Island, as part of the ongoing effort to turn an old lumberyard into a riverside park.