Hold politicians accountable Nov. 7

In these troubled times, we cannot afford to become so preoccupied with national and international affairs that we forget to weigh the implications of state and local policies.

In these troubled times, we cannot afford to become so preoccupied with national and international affairs that we forget to weigh the implications of state and local policies.

The Nov. 7 general election is our opportunity to hold politicians accountable for the actions they have taken in office. It is a time to reward politicians who have worked in our best interests and to rebuke those who haven't.

Greater Minnesota's challenges are so great that we cannot continue sending politicians to St. Paul who are content to "go along to get along." Our legislators must understand that their first responsibility is to protect our interests at the Capitol, not blindly follow the dictates of their caucuses.

They must understand that the property tax relief embodied in the Local Government Aid (LGA) program is vitally important to taxpayers and cities throughout rural Minnesota. They must appreciate the fact that LGA is property tax relief and economic development aid rolled into one neat package.

When the state sends LGA to cities with either high needs or low property wealth - cities throughout greater Minnesota as well as Minneapolis and St. Paul - the aid is actually serving a dual purpose. It helps cities provide a basic level of government services - police and fire protection, street maintenance and library services - at more affordable tax rates. It also enables cities to provide the full level of services that businesses demand from a community.


Without state aid, many cities would be forced to either eliminate countless services or sharply increase property taxes to pay for them. Neither option is good for taxpayers or economic development in greater Minnesota.

Rural communities will not thrive on political neglect. Their economies will continue to struggle and they will continue hemorrhaging population if we continue to ignore the needs of greater Minnesota. In 2001, with help from many rural lawmakers, the Legislature spent almost $1 billion reducing property taxes. Property taxpayers in the affluent suburbs received the bulk of that tax relief. Greater Minnesota's property tax relief came mainly through increased LGA funding.

Two years later, the Legislature - aided once again by rural legislators - cut $150 million in property tax relief funding from LGA to help solve a $4.5 billion budget deficit. By cutting aid to low-wealth communities, the Legislature pushed a property tax increase onto many rural taxpayers and sheltered taxpayers in the property-rich suburbs around the Twin Cities from a similar sacrifice.

Some legislators have justified their vote by claiming that the affluent suburbs could not make a meaningful contribution to the budget crisis because they received little or no state aid. Their argument ignores the fact that taxpayers in the affluent suburbs received considerable property tax relief from the Legislature's decision in 2001 to take over mass transit funding.

With taxpayers in many communities facing sharply higher property taxes, legislators - Republicans and Democrats - promised to make property tax relief a legislative priority last session. The promise, however, produced rhetoric rather than relief.

In the House, the Republican leadership blocked several attempts to bring property tax relief to the floor for debate. In one instance, the leadership used parliamentary tricks to keep LGA funding and school property tax relief amendments off the floor. Once again, rural legislators played a pivotal role in helping the House frustrate efforts to provide property tax relief to taxpayers in greater Minnesota.

During the House-Senate Tax Conference Committee deliberations, increased LGA funding was voted on only once. The provision failed with DFLers voting for more LGA funding and Republican members of the committee voting against the measure.

For years, legislators have been cutting program funding and shifting the burden onto local property taxes. Ironically, those same legislators would have you believe that their actions have had no impact on property tax rates. It seems as though those who preach loudest about accountability are the least likely to practice it.


We must use this election to choose legislators who understand that their first loyalty is to greater Minnesota and the voters of their districts, not to political parties and caucuses. It is time for legislators to take responsibility for the choices they make in office. The Nov. 7 general election is our opportunity to pick a governor and legislators who can set aside the political gimmickry and work on behalf of all of Minnesota.



What To Read Next
Get Local