Cities: Fund Police and Firefighters During Shutdown

Officials representing Minnesota cities contend that LGA should be paid during shutdown; file response to AG petition

(June 22, 2011—St. Paul, Minn.) The League of Minnesota Cities, on behalf of its 830-plus member cities, filed a response today to the state attorney general’s petition challenging the state’s authority to delay or stop local government aid (LGA) payments to cities should a state government shutdown occur on July 1. These funds were already part of a budget approved by the Legislature and enacted into law. The response was co-signed by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and the City of St. Paul.

The attorney general’s petition, submitted on June 13, addressed the temporary funding of core government functions in the event of a state government shutdown. The response co-signers contended that, as dictated by existing state law, standing appropriations must be paid on schedule. Cities in Minnesota are scheduled to receive one-half of their LGA payments on July 20 and one-half on Dec. 26.

In addition to local government aid, appropriations for cities that are in jeopardy of being stopped or delayed in the event of a longer-term shutdown include market value homestead credit reimbursement, pension amortization aid, PERA aid, police and fire aid, utility value transition aid, and taconite aid, among others. Nearly all Minnesota cities would be affected by failure to receive one or more of these appropriations as scheduled.

“Local government aid funds police and firefighters in St. Paul,” St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said at a joint press conference attended by representatives from each of the petition respondents and local police and firefighters. “The Republican plan passed by the Legislature devastates LGA and our ability to fund police and firefighters. Now their failure to reach agreement is equally devastating.”

“City governments are already in the middle of their fiscal year, and the LGA payment amount they would receive next month was certified in July of 2010,” said Jim Miller, executive director for the League of Minnesota Cities. “At this late stage, cities would have few options for replacing the money promised them nearly a year ago.”

City association officials at the event acknowledged that any further legal actions on their part to force timely payment of appropriations could be avoided if the governor and Legislature come to terms on a state budget agreement before the July 1 shutdown deadline. “We are not here today to take sides in political negotiations,” Miller said. “Instead, we simply urge our state leaders to compromise in a way that does not balance the state budget on the backs of local property tax payers or compromise safe streets, clean water, and general quality of life in our cities.”