Government on Government Lobbying Cost MN Taxpayers Millions in 2016
Taxpayers get it coming and going in a new report issued by the Office of the State Auditor. The figures show $9.1 million in property taxes was spent by local governments in 2016 to lobby the Minnesota Legislature, often to increase spending.
Some 105 Minnesota cities, counties, school districts, townships and special districts spent public funds on lobbying legislators, four more than in 2015. It added up to an increase of $183,353 (2 percent) in local government lobbying over the previous legislative session.
But in reality the total tops $10 million. That’s if you count–the report does not–local government spending on federal lobbyists in Washington, D.C. A loophole in state law does not require the state to track the hundreds of thousands of dollars local governments pay to federal lobbyists.
In the report’s overview, Otto lets local governments off the hook, noting their need to keep an eye on legislation that affects them. No such concern was expressed for taxpayers.
The operation and funding of local governments can be greatly affected by decisions made by the State legislature. Therefore, it is understandable that those affected by these decisions would want to have representation during the legislative process.
St. Paul spent most on lobbying legislators ($445,000), followed by the National Joint Powers Alliance procurement agency ($398,000), Hennepin County ($315,000), Minneapolis ($277,00) and Saint Louis County ($185,000).
Local governments also pay associations to represent them in St. Paul. In all, twelve associations billed their local government members for more than $100,000 in taxpayer funds. The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities topped the list ($904,000), trailed by the League of Minnesota Cities ($656,000), Minnesota School Boards Association ($372,000), Association of Metropolitan School Districts ($317,000) and Schools for Equity in Education ($226,000).Flaherty and Hood led all lobbyists in billing local governments ($914,000), followed by Lockridge, Grindal, and Nauen ($509,000), Messerli and Kramer ($484,000), Ewald Consulting $250,000) and Larkin Hoffman Daly and Lindgren ($234,000).
Altogether, a total of 17 lobbyists and firms were paid more than $100,000 to lobby by local governments and their associations. The trend clearly is clearly headed in the wrong direction from the taxpayers’ point of view.