Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pick a mandate, any mandate….no, not that one!
Early in the Legislative session, Governor Pawlenty and state lawmakers asked cities, counties, and school districts to submit ideas for mandate relief to relieve some of the budget pressures associated with cuts to local government aids. Eliminating mandates, though, is easier said than done—at least a couple of suggestions are encountering stiff political opposition.

The Minnesota Newspaper Association has historically opposed any previous attempts by local governments to end the decades-long practice of publishing public meeting notices in local papers. Though the emergence of electronic media has rendered the practice nearly obsolete, and the cost of purchasing classified ads is a drag on city budgets, that opposition has re-emerged.

Perhaps the mother-of-all mandates, state-imposed levy limits is apparently off-the-table, as well, according to the Governor. During the last legislative session, the Governor signed a bill into law that permits cities to increase their levies 3.9 percent OR the change in the IPD (implicit price deflator—the local government measurement of inflation), whichever is less. Right now the change in the IPD is running about 1 percent for 2010 and half that for 2011.

Senator Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) recently introduced a bill that would adopt several mandate relief measures, including removal of levy limits. The bill was approved by the Senate Tax Committee, and awaits further action.