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Don Davis, Published November 30 2009

Political Notebook: Minnesota cities gear up for funding fight

ST. PAUL – A perennial Minnesota legislative debate about local government aid is expected in the 2010 session, or maybe earlier.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is making noise about a big fight, and many city officials are concerned that they cannot wait until lawmakers return to the Capitol on Feb. 4.

A Wednesday budget forecast, which could show a new deficit of

$1 billion, may lead to cuts in local governments’ December state paychecks.

“Repeated cuts to LGA have pushed our communities to the edge, and our ability to provide public safety, libraries, parks and other essential services at an affordable price to property taxpayers is suffering,” coalition President Timothy Strand, the St. Peter mayor, said. “On behalf of our residents, we are telling legislators and the governor that enough is enough.”

Local governments are scheduled to receive $412 million in December aid checks, one of two installments each year. A year ago, Pawlenty chopped those checks to help fill a deficit the state then faced. While he seems reluctant to do the same thing this December, it all depends on what Wednesday’s budget report says.

The Wednesday report will summarize the state economy, but government officials look harder at how much money they will have to spend. Or, in this case, it will be how much of a deficit they will face.

Check stimulus

A new Web site, www.stimuluswatch.org, makes it easier for taxpayers to see how federal stimulus money is being spent locally.

While much information remains sketchy, the Web site does give figures and basic descriptions of projects the federal money funded.

Among the site’s features is the ability for people to add information about local projects.

Kelliher gets nod

Minnesota’s two major American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees unions split their support in the 2010 governor’s race.

While Council 5, based in the Twin Cities, backs former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, Nashwauk-based Council 65 supports another Democrat, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher. Both candidates live in Minneapolis.

The decision to back Kelliher was close, Council 65 Executive Director Steve Preble said.

Open house set

The annual Minnesota governor’s residence holiday open house schedule begins Tuesday.

On three Tuesdays – Dec. 1, Dec. 8 and Dec. 15 – the 1006 Summit Ave., St. Paul, house will be open for tours 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

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