Rural cities to see more LGA in 2014
By Anna Erickson
Park Rapids and other rural Minnesota cities fared well in the 2013 Legislative session, according to Coalition of Greater Minnesota advocates.
Bradley Peterson, an attorney and lobbyist with the Flaherty & Hood law firm, gave the council a legislative update last week.
He represents the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and lobbies for rural issues in the Legislature.
“The goal for the session was to pass a budget that wasn’t paid for with gimmicks, shifts or increased property taxes,” he said.
Peterson said that goal was largely met.
Local Government Aid was a priority in the session. The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities lobbied to create legislation that fairly distributes LGA to rural and metro cities.
Legislation was passed that simplifies the distribution formula while ensuring that more money goes to the communities with the greatest needs for property tax relief. A key feature of the proposed formula is its stability and predictability, Peterson said, which has been a great source of distress for mayors and city councils across the state as they try to determine the long term impact of the LGA program on their city budgets.
“Our areas especially, with aging infrastructures, need LGA,” he said.
The city of Park Rapids will see increased LGA in 2014 and should continue to see increases in the future, Peterson said.
Also, the state now has a balanced budget, Peterson added. Most of the new income is in cigarette and corporate warehouse taxes.
Good news for local government comes Jan. 1, when cities and counties will no longer have to pay sales tax on purchases. The current law is cumbersome and cities must file for reimbursement of taxes on purchases.
Economic development was addressed at this year’s legislative session as well.
“Sen. Rod Skoe worked on an internship program that will offer cost savings to businesses hiring interns,” Peterson said.
A business expansion program is also in the works and will be a focus in future sessions.
In other business, the council:
n Approved a Conditional Use Permit for Lori Lea Lanes, Pizza Ranch and Chalupa Charlie’s. The CUP is to construct an outdoor patio area on the property.
n Approved plans and specifications and advertising for bids for the Heartland Trailhead Project, which will coincide with the Department of Natural Resource’s Red Bridge replacement project.