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LGA cuts to be 'extraordinary blow'

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is pictured Monday during an interview in Willmar. Rybak was touring Minnesota cities, where he discussed the impact local govenment aid cuts would have on those communities. Tribune photo by Linda Vanderwerf

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the group that Mayor Rybak was representing Monday.

WILLMAR -- Local property taxpayers will bear the brunt of a proposal to slash state aid to cities this year, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said Monday.

Rybak stopped in Willmar Monday afternoon on a trip across Minnesota. He is a candidate for governor, but he made the trip at the request of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, visiting cities around the state to discuss the impact of cuts in local government aid. Rybak did not bring up his gubernatorial campaign but he did talk about it when asked.

In his recent budget proposal, Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed cutting $125 million from LGA funding. It would be the second cut in less than a year. The first cut last summer was about the same size.

"This will be an extraordinary blow," Rybak said.

City services have suffered as aid has been cut, Rybak said, whether that's Minneapolis and St. Paul or the small cities of rural Minnesota.

"Local services are on a roller coaster because the state has not had good fiscal policy," he said.

Current estimates project a deficit of more than $5 billion in the next two years. New projections are to be announced later today.

Rybak said if he were governor he would seek a long-term budget solution that includes budget cuts, government reform and revenue increases. "We may have to come to terms with the fact that Minnesota has more government than we can afford," he said.

To find ways to continue to deliver services with less government, he said, he would meet with mayors, county commissioners and school officials across the state to discuss a plan. The plan could include merging some functions and having the state work with communities to find a way to deliver state-mandated services.

He would propose a more progressive income tax and perhaps a broader sales tax to help put the state budget on a firmer footing, he said. If the budget was also being cut at the same time, he added, he believed the tax proposal would be acceptable.

Rybak acknowledged that none of the changes would be easy to implement.

"We should be embracing new ideas, and that's going to make all of us uncomfortable," he said. "My message is: Work together; it's Minnesota."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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