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Don Davis, Published February 27 2009

Minnesota bill would allow city officials to legally cut their own pay

ST. PAUL – City leaders fear they will have to trim police forces, fire brigades, library operations and other city functions – and now they fear breaking a state law by cutting their own pay.

But fiscal conservative Rep. Marty Seifert is coming to their rescue with a bill that would allow them to chop their salaries with immunity.

"Every penny helps," the Marshall, Minn., Republican said, so he plans a bill aimed at non-union local government employees.

The Republican House leader came to the rescue of the Virginia, Minn., mayor and City Council, who earlier this month decided to cut their pay 10 percent. The Associated Press reports that Mayor Steve Peterson of the northeastern Minnesota city said officials are willing to defy the law so the city can save $2,760 this year.

Officials in other cities have considered similar action.

The problem is a state law that was written to keep government officials from raising their salaries also bans reductions.

"It's one of those arcane laws," Seifert said.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com