(The Center Square) – More than 250 county commissioners and officials from nearly every Minnesota county lobbied Wednesday with the Association of Minnesota Counties.
The association’s slate of legislative priorities this year includes investing in mental health services, supporting the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, expanding statewide broadband infrastructure, transportation funding, among other issues.
“Counties are looking for reinvestments in County Program Aid, as well as to re-balance the state-local funding partnerships from past state budget shortfalls. This will produce better outcomes for required county services but also provide property tax relief,” Association of Minnesota Counties President and Lac qui Parle County Commissioner Todd Patzer said in the release. “State investment in counties is critical to keeping local tax levies manageable and maintaining high quality of life for all Minnesotans.”
The association supports developing an accessible, reliable statewide behavioral health care and infrastructure for communities, including justice-involved and incarcerated individuals. It said it will support an opioid intrastate allocation plan. It wants more state investments for housing, including the workforce and affordable housing, senior housing and emergency/transitional housing supports.
The association wants a robust bonding bill to fund the Local Road Improvement Program, the Local Bridge Replacement Program, the Local Government Road Wetland Replacement Program, and the Busway Capital Improvement Program. The association supports funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program.
The association wants the state to address Minnesota workers’ need for affordable, accessible child care and says the state should conduct a legislative study outlining budget impacts of child protection mandates on counties’ levies, operations and property taxes.
The association supports strengthening Payment in Lieu of Taxes funding programs to guarantee full property tax loss replacement and a Family First Prevention Service Act that ensures equitable access to services statewide that is financially sustainable for counties. It’s also seeking support on counties’ responsibilities for state mandates on solid waste management.
AMC wants stakeholders to reach agreement for any Public Waters Inventory changes. It also wants more funding to support transparency.
“AMC supports changes to the community supervision funding model so that state fund allocations are transparent, needs-based, and equitable among county and state supervision providers,” the release said. “Counties need a substantial increase in community supervision funding to achieve this model.”
Center of the American Experiment Economist John Phelan told The Center Square in an emailed statement that Minnesota shouldn’t increase state expenditures.
“Minnesota’s state government is already spending record high amounts historically, both per capita and adjusted for inflation,” Phelan said. “We don’t need to pile more government spending on top of that. Instead, we should use the forecast surplus to give some of the most heavily taxed citizens in the United States a much-needed break with permanent tax rate cuts.”
The association’s goal is to improve county government operations through intergovernmental relations, communications and education.