Pawlenty dumps budget mess onto counties, cities and property taxpayers


In order to avoid the necessity of a state tax increase, Governor Pawlenty is once again turning to Minnesota communities and property taxpayers, hoping they will bail him out one last time. In his budget proposal released yesterday, Pawlenty is not only hoping that the legislature will ratify last summer’s potentially unconstitutional unallotment of county and city aid, but will also enact even deeper cuts to county and city revenue within the budget year that has already begun.

For example, Pawlenty is proposing to cut city Local Government Aid (LGA) for 2010 by $220.5 million — a 41 percent reduction from the amount that the state certified to cities last summer based on current law. In addition, the Governor’s budget would reduce the city portion of the 2010 homestead market value credit by $32.4 million, or 39.2 percent.

In addition, the governor wants to reduce County Program Aid (CPA) for 2010 by $174.3 million — a whopping 75 percent cut below the certified level. To make matters worse, Pawlenty would cut the county share of the 2010 homestead market value credit by $17.7 million, or 13.7 percent.

And the cuts don’t end here. Pawlenty also wants to impose massive cuts to LGA, CPA, and the homestead market value credit in 2011 as well. Of course, these cuts will lead to more cuts in county and city budgets and more property tax increases.

Here’s how the governor’s proposed budget will impact your city.

CIty LGA and Market Value Homestead Credits After Cuts in Governor’s Budget

Here’s the same information for counties.

County Program Aid and Market Value Homestead Credits After Cuts in Governor’s Budget

The aid and credit reductions in these printouts represent the budget cuts and property tax increases that will occur in your community under the Pawlenty budget.

If Pawlenty has his way, real per capita general purpose state aid to Minnesota counties (including both CPA and the market value homestead credit) will have fallen by approximately 43 percent during his tenure as governor. (This does not take into account the costs that the state has shifted onto counties, which puts even more of a strain on county budgets and contributes to higher property taxes.) Over the same period, real per capita city LGA would have fallen by 60 percent.

The governor’s willingness to repeat previously discredited talking points was demonstrated in last week’s State of the State address. No doubt, Pawlenty will claim that county and city governments will have to learn to “live within their means,” just as state government has done. In fact, counties and cities have made deeper cuts than state government since 2002. For the governor to chide local governments about the need for frugality would be hypocritical.

The cuts in county and city budgets have translated into fewer cops on the streets, more potholes and crumbling infrastructure, more disadvantaged citizens going without medical care, less snow plowing, and a general deterioration of Minnesota’s quality of life. And let’s not forget higher property taxes, as more public costs are shifted on to those with the least ability to pay.

Pawlenty is going back to the well one last time. As he has done in the past, his current budget proposal dumps a disproportionate share of the state’s budget problems onto the backs of local governments and property taxpayers so that he can claim that he did not increase state taxes. Legislative leadership should use every means at their disposal to prevent yet another recurrence of this tiresome and costly charade.