Greater Minnesota cities oppose cutting local government aid to Minneapolis for Chauvin trial security

    The downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota skyline at sunrise, as seen from the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River on August 13, 2019. Photo by Tony Webster/Minnesota Reformer.

    Minneapolis won an ally this week as it fights off an effort by Republicans in the Legislature to cut its state funding: rural cities. 

    The organization representing more than 100 cities in greater Minnesota on Monday stated its opposition to Senate Republicans’ proposal to cut local government aid from Minneapolis to pay for law enforcement mutual aid bills, as the city prepares for the murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin. 

    Democratic-Farmer-Labor Gov. Tim Walz and the DFL-led House are locked in a stalemate with the Senate GOP over how to pay for security costs during the upcoming trial. Walz has asked lawmakers to approve $35 million in state funding for an account that would pay law enforcement agencies for their assistance. 

    The GOP-majority Senate on Monday approved legislation 35 to 32 that would pay for that security by cutting Minneapolis’ share of local government aid, state funding distributed to cities to help pay for general services. Democratic state senators criticized the bill as “punitive.” 

    The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) opposes the legislation, raising concerns about how such legislation could harm rural communities in the future, given their reliance on state aid. 

    “Just as extraordinary public safety events can happen in Minneapolis, so too can they occur in Mankato, Marshall or Mahnomen,” Little Falls Mayor Greg Zylka and president of the coalition wrote to Senate Republicans. “CGMC opposes in all circumstances the use of LGA as a penalty or tool to enforce the policy preferences of the Legislature.”

    He added: “LGA is a general-purpose aid that supports all the services cities provide. Using LGA as a penalty, diverting it to other jurisdictions, or directing how it is spent erodes local control and the purpose of the LGA program.”

    Zylka also outlined other concerns with the Senate GOP approach. Among them, what would happen if a city does not receive local government aid? During the Great Recession, the Legislature cut local government aid to cities across the state. 

    The risk of an LGA cut to pay for mutual aid bills could also catch city officials by surprise, creating a “de facto unallotment” of funding for city services, he wrote. 

    “Depending on the scope of the bill due, withholding LGA could have severe consequences on the city and force it to make tough choices as to what services, personnel or capital projects must be cut to make up for the loss of aid,” he wrote. 

    The debate over how to pay for security costs during the Chauvin trial is expected to continue as Walz and House DFL leadership reassess their path forward after tabling a vote on the bill Monday because of a lack of DFL votes.

    Ricardo Lopez
    Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.