Friday, March 12, 2010

Cities making tough budget choices while legislators propose more mandates
Last year, in the wake of financial woes caused to cities by unallotment of state aids, officials from the state legislative and executive branches asked city associations to submit a list of mandates that could be eliminated to help alleviate city budget struggles and promote collaborations with other local governments. The League of Minnesota Cities responded by submitting a 20-page list, and Minnesota cities were rewarded with...elimination of a single, minor mandate.

Fast forward to 2010--with cities again facing brutal cuts in the Governor's proposed budget, legislators have introduced at least three additional bills that would further strain city budgets through the imposition of unfunded mandates. Separate proposals that would expand employee sick leave, require cities to purchase clean products from a state-approved list, and require ice arena managers to install state-approved air monitoring devices certainly are all well-intentioned pieces of legislation. At a time when the state has responded to a budget crisis by slashing city aids and credits and threatening to cut more, though, the introduction of even more unfunded mandates adds even more pressure to city budgets. If state policymakers indeed plan to offer mandate relief to help offset cuts to state aid and credits, then expanding the mandate list is counter-productive, at best.