Tuesday, February 15, 2011

League of Minnesota Cities statement regarding Governor Dayton's expected budget announcement

From Jim Miller, Executive Director

Governor Dayton’s past role as state auditor, where he was charged with financial oversight of local units of government, appears to have influenced his budget recommendations. He recognizes the challenges cities face due to the fact that local budgets for 2011 were just finalized in December, leaving cities with few immediate options—other than cuts in city services such as libraries, community centers, police and fire services, streets, bridges, and others-- in the event of another round of state reductions.

He also acknowledges the longer-term pressure on the property tax that would occur under another round of state budget cuts. Given the fact that cities have been struck by repeated cuts to state aids and credit reimbursements totaling more than $300 million over the last three years, the League welcomes the Governor’s decision to protect the quality of life in our communities by sparing state aids and credits from further cuts.

Monday, February 14, 2011

No more raids: Rep. Smith introduces bill to protect Fire Safety Account
by Anne Finn, League of Minnesota Cities

Rep. Steve Smith (R-Mound) last week introduced a bill that would prohibit future raids of the Fire Safety Account, a dedicated fund that provides resources for firefighter training and regional efforts. Last year, against the objections of the League of Minnesota Cities and fire service organizations, over $15 million from the account was diverted for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 to the general fund to aid the state’s ailing budget. HF 474 does not restore the funds that were taken from the account, but it protects the account from future transfers by adding a provision stipulating that funds in the account must be appropriated to the commissioner of public safety for the purposes identified in Minn. Stat. § 299F.012.

The Fire Safety Account was created in 2007, under a statute signed into law by Governor Tim Pawlenty. Homeowners and commercial property owners pay a “fire safety surcharge” of 0.65 percent on insurance premiums. The surcharge, which is listed as a line-item on policyholders’ statements, is deposited into the Fire Safety Account. The account is used for firefighter training, state chemical and decontamination response teams, as well as the State Fire Marshall's office. The average homeowner pays $5.20 into the fund annually.