Rybak joins New Ulm mayor in fight to retain Local Government Aid for cities

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Flanked by New Ulm Mayor Bob Beussman, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak joined local city officials from south central Minnesota Wednesday to warn local residents about the crippling effects of potential cut to Local Government Aid (LGA) under the tax bill  that Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed.

Rybak and area leaders repeatedly evoked the notion that Minnesota works best as a partnership of small towns and big cities. The big city mayor drew laughter with the example of a partnership he used to open the press conference.

“New Ulm and Minneapolis have an awful lot in common,” he said. “One of my favorite things about New Ulm is actually Nordeast beer which we get all this credit for in Minneapolis. We know where it’s made;  it’s made right here in New Ulm, as are so many other great Schell’s products.”

Rybak turned serious, though, as he pointed out that he and his wife frequently visited the Brown County town, enjoying the services that LGA helped it secure for its citizens.

“Any time you go anywhere in Minnesota, you should have that guarantee that you’ll have those good, basic services,” Rybak said. “That’s important right now, though, because there’s a proposal right now at the state capitol that would have a dramatic negative impact on all those things that those of us who come to visit us care about, and more importantly, those who [live] in New Ulm really depend on”

According to a press release issued by ThankLGA.org, a media campaign run by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, Dayton vetoed a tax bill that would have slashed LGA to Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth  by over 50% in 2011, eliminating the assistance for the large cities by 2014. Greater Minnesota cities would  have seen a 19% reduction.

Chief author of the legislation, House Property Tax  Committee Chair Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines),  said in a March 16 committee meeting that “she intends the bill to begin the phase-out of aid sent to cities,” veteran Forum Communications political writer Don Davis reported. Other Republicans have denied that this is the intent of her legislation, Davis noted.

Those assembled in New Ulm would have none of the GOP demurrals and hammered home the need for the program. North Mankato City Administrator Wendell Sande said that small business owners surveyed by Greater Mankato Growth, the Mankato area chamber, favored keeping LGA.

“When they had an opportunity to look at the LGA program and the impacts that the program had … a vast majority of our businesses are in support of the continuation of the LGA program and, at some point, restoring to its previous levels,” Sande said.

Representatives from New Ulm’s Chamber  of Commerce attended the event, underscoring a widely reported split between 14 local chambers in Greater Minnesota that have passed resolutions supporting LGA and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, which supports the cuts. Rybak said that the revival of Minnesota’s economy would done by small businesses on the main streets of towns like New Ulm and Mankato.

Despite this division between the business groups, the mayors and city managers stressed how Minnesota is one state.

“‘Minnesota Nice’ was a slogan for many years,” Beussman said. “It didn’t say ‘Minneapolis Nice,’ it didn’t say ‘New Ulm Nice,’ it didn’t say  ‘Sleepy Eye Nice,’ it didn’t say ‘North Mankato.’ It says ‘Minnesota.’ And if  Minnesota can work together for the better of all of its citizens, then … the North Star State can be a very powerful state.”

Rybak traveled from New Ulm to Albert Lea for another press conference.

A video of highlights from the presser and an interview with Rybak immediately after the event: