Letters: Overhaul will benefit taxpayers
County governments face numerous obstacles in providing efficient, effective government services. While demographics and populations have changed across the state in the past two decades, the structure and requirements of government have remained...
County governments face numerous obstacles in providing efficient, effective government services. While demographics and populations have changed across the state in the past two decades, the structure and requirements of government have remained the same.
Minnesota is growing more diverse as counties continue to attract new residents from Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia. We cannot continue to deliver services in a 1980s model of government.
In addition, the Legislature's decision to shift state responsibilities to county governments has tied the hands of elected county commissioners when it comes to making local decisions. Many of these responsibilities are a one-size-fits-all solution to complex problems. Too often, these responsibilities have become unfunded or underfunded mandates.
Examples include: counties being forced to take over state responsibilities, such as housing state felons in county jails, or to maintain unsustainable funding for programs regardless of local demand for the service, such as funding for libraries or mental health services.
This puts county governments into a box. With new mandates from St. Paul, including capping local levies, and a service delivery model that's outdated, the county/state relationship is on the verge of collapse. Much needs to change.
That's why the Association of Minnesota Counties is asking legislators to put efficiency, transparency, flexibility and innovation back into government. An overhaul of government should also help reduce the demand for higher property taxes, saving money for Minnesota's taxpayers.
With a massive budget deficit on the horizon, the Legislature cannot continue to use accounting gimmicks or push state services to other levels of government. State and county leaders need to propose innovative ideas and strategies to improve government services while holding the line on spending in order to provide new transparency to a system in desperate need of repair.
But county commissioners will not be able to streamline services or lower local property taxes without the support of our local legislators. If legislators fail to remove the shackles from counties, local governments will collapse from the weight of mandates and inefficiencies. The time is now for change.
of Minnesota Counties