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Viewpoint: Spending at state level has negative impact on local government services

On Wednesday, Dec. 9 the Woodbury City Council held their annual the "Truth in Taxation" public hearing.

This disclosure is mandated by our state Legislature. The purpose is to ensure transparency and accountability. City administrator Clint Gridley did an excellent job presenting the facts about our city's budget this year and compared it to past budgets and future plans. He prepared easy to understand graphs and respectfully answered the people's questions.

Once the open hearing session began, it was obvious that many Woodbury residents were extremely frustrated with what is happening to them in regards to taxation. There is a paradox with the realities of falling home values and rising taxes.

I applaud our brave neighbors who rose and voiced their concerns around the extra tax burden on Woodbury residents. They not only stood to ask for consideration, they also encouraged our city council to fight the pressing state mandates and address the dangerous state budget deficit that is impossible for local governments to escape.

Woodbury City Council members were very polite and attentively listened to everyone's opinions. They resisted playing the "blame game," and took the brunt of the concerns with composure.

But here is the crux of the problem: the city's projected annual budget was based on assumptions that money would be reimbursed to Woodbury from the state government as promised. However, the state Legislature failed to do its job in presenting a balanced budget, which prompted Gov. Tim Pawlenty to use the unallotment option. This is why there is less money at our local level now. Conveniently, the state house gets to blame the governor for cutting the money that was supposed to go to the local municipalities.

One thing is painfully apparent, spending by our state Legislature in St. Paul is having a negative impact on how effective local governments can be in serving their communities, sustaining a "quality of life" for residents, and being able to responsibly plan for the future.

Three people were missing from this meeting: our own state senator and our two district state representatives; they should have been present to witness first hand the passion that was in the room.

Do people realize that cities and counties are being squeezed from the state level? All of the unfunded mandates and redistribution of taxes is from our state legislature not our city leaders?

Other important issues were raised such as the nonnegotiable fees that are demanded by the Met Council, and the lack of real growth in the business sector due to the corporate tax rate in Minnesota. Sadly, our council members are left in the position to apologize for yet another tax increase in our struggling economy.

Andrea Kieffer is a Woodbury resident and a candidate for state House District 56B.