State aid cuts showed that leaner is possible

Minnesota 2020, a progressive think tank in St. Paul, had a representative visit Fairmont this week to talk about property taxes. They are expected to remain steady or decline this year, thanks to an infusion of state cash into local government coffers. Credit is being given to Democrats who control the state Legislature. During the last legislative session, they put $80 million into Local Government Aid.

The message from Minnesota 2020 and like-minded allies is that cruel Republican state budget cuts in the past decade are now being alleviated. We believe there is more to the story.

Minnesota 2020’s own numbers show that Fairmont lost more than $2 million in state aid from 2002 to 2013. So it raised local property taxes $1.3 million and cut spending by $815,000. Which says what? To us, this shows that the state could reduce spending on local governments, which could find places to save money. And local decisions could be made about what not to cut, hence the property tax hikes. If state aid cuts had not occurred, we never would have known what was possible, while government – state and local – would have continued to grow. Those who tout more state aid discount the possibility of bloated, unnecessary government.

In fairness, those advocates would say that cuts in spending are painful, in terms of services to the public or for government workers who may lose their jobs. But that is a short-term concern. In the long run, society is better off with efficient government that does not try to be all things to all people all of the time.