Articles like this spin-piece shouldn’t be published. They’re one-sided propaganda. They aren’t informative. When I want legitimate information that helps me make decisions, I often turn to Harold Hamilton’s weekly commentaries. First, let’s examine the spin from the Times’ spin-piece.

It says “As the Minnesota Legislature wrapped up its special session last May, one state lawmaker spoke out about the increases in Local Government Aid and County Program Aid in the 2019 tax bill. Cities, he said, ‘should be fat and happy for a long time’ thanks to the $30 million boost in LGA. Now that cities are in the midst of important budget discussions, I keep thinking back to that comment and how it trivializes the challenges cities face in prioritizing the needs of our residents and communities.”

Later in the spin-piece, we learn this:

My city, Willmar, is poised to get a $272,000 boost in LGA in 2020. However, the cost of health insurance for city employees is going up 30%, nearly $500,000. This added expense alone far exceeds any additional LGA that Willmar will receive.

First, we know that Willmar gets a total of over $9,200,000 in FY2019-2020 in LGA. By comparison, St. Paul and Minneapolis receive a combined $289,500,000 in LGA in 2019-2020. I mention that because of this information that I got from Harold Hamilton’s report from this past Friday:


Don’t leave. We have one more for you. This one comes from the City of Minneapolis (surprised?) Having plenty of money and having solved the big problems, the city embarked on the building of new public services building to properly house the many bureaucrats who administer city ordinances, like the one mandating the sale of fruits and vegetables at city convenience stores.

The crowning jewel of this new building is a massive ceiling-mounted sculpture at the building’s entrance. Want to guess the cost? If you said $772,000, you would be correct. $772,000 for a sculpture.

When called out, do you suppose the city was contrite and embarrassed? A person from the city with the title of “city arts administrator” said the following:

“We wanted a piece that would capture people’s attention when they came into the building. We wanted a piece that would be interesting and exciting. We also wanted a piece that would be interesting to people who came into the building over and over again.”

The state sends about $80 million each year in aid payments to Minneapolis. If they have money like this for sculptures and the salary of an “arts administrator” they certainly don’t need these state aid payments.

This isn’t surprising. A few years ago, Minneapolis bought 10 “artistic” drinking fountains that cost the city $50,000 each. Had they purchased standard drinking fountain, that would’ve cost taxpayers a total of less than $60,000.

The point of this comparison is to highlight the fact that Minneapolis wastes more money per year than Willmar sees in terms of LGA increases. There are legitimate expenses that LGA helps defray the cost of. Unfortunately, big cities, especially Minneapolis, waste money on things like artistic drinking fountains, sculptures and bike trail administrators. When I went through the St. Paul city budget in 2008, I reported to my client that 30-40% of St. Paul’s operating budget was wasteful spending that could be eliminated without a single person noticing outside of the lobbyists who lobbied for the extra money.

Think of how much money could be either redirected or eliminated if we didn’t have cities like the Twin Cities wasting $500,000 on artistic drinking fountains or $772,000 for a sculpture inside a building. These are just the things we know about. There isn’t any doubt that they’re just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

2 Responses to “Money is fungible, LGA is expensive”

  • eric z says:

    Gary – A sincere thanks for a post not dealing with DC drama of the day. It is refreshing. Harold Hamilton is still alive? Do you think he does his own writing under his name, or is it ghostwritten? No question, you write what you post, but HH?

  • Gary Gross says:

    Yes, I think that HH still writes most of his stuff. I do think that he’s got people doing tons of research for him, though.

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