Cities brace for LGA cuts - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Cities brace for LGA cuts

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ALBERT LEA, Minn. (KTTC) -- Local government aid is on the chopping block again as the Minnesota House passed a budget cutting bill Thursday.

The legislation comes with big implications, including cuts in higher education, child protection and even mental health services.

The bill is being pushed by the Republican Party. They're hoping to save the state $1 billion, but it comes at a cost to local government agencies.

With the state's budget deficit looming at $6.2 billion, something has got to give.

"We all realize that something's going to have to happen with the situation that the state is in," says Albert Lea's Mayor, Vern Rasmussen.

In both versions of the House and Senate bills the largest cuts come in reductions to state aid.

Rasmussen says the city will need to take drastic measures if $1 million needs to be cut from the budget.

"As a community one of two things are going to happen. Cut service or raise taxes," says Rasmussen.

At a time when the economy is still shaky, residents we spoke to said they don't want to pay more property taxes and the mayor says he understands.

"As a community over the last several years we've seen a lot of tax increase and I'm concerned a lot of residents really can not bear much more," Rasmussen explains.

While tax payers may end up saving money, they could lose vital services, like firefighters or police officers.

Chamber of Commerce Director, Randy Kehr, says LGA cuts would be a burden, especially on greater Minnesota.

"Businesses and citizens will be much more attracted to the metropolitan area, where the tax base is larger and consequently the property taxes are lower," says Kehr.

The Senate version of the bill is expected to pass next week, and joint committees will re-work final legislation for the Governor.

Governor Mark Dayton is expected to veto the bill.

Earlier this month Dayton said, "I will not agree to piecemeal cuts and partial solutions eliminating the $6.2 billion deficit in the next biennium."

Austin Mayor, Tom Stiehm, says he isn't too worried about the possible cuts.

The city originally formulated two budgets, one with over a million dollars in cuts.

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