HJ/EDMarch 13, 2006

Nancy Larson lobbies for small cities

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Nancy Larson of Dassel has been lobbying at the state capitol to get funds for transportation for greater Minnesota.

“Where is it going? Will the money go out to rural Minnesota?” Larson asked the Dassel Cokato Rotary on March 2 at Daniel’s Restaurant in Cokato.

Larson said the attitude has changed in the past 20 to 30 years in the state capitol. Legislators don’t want to “subsidize” rural areas anymore the way rural areas supported the metro area before, she said.

Larson is especially concerned about a proposal for an amendment to the constitution that funds from the motor vehicle sales tax pay only for transportation. Some of the money had been going into the general fund and was paying for other government programs, she said.

Larson said she and the other lobbyists in the coalition of greater Minnesota cities are not opposed to the amendment, but want it changed.

First, Larson doesn’t want the proposed amendment to come to a vote because she’s afraid people will think it’s a new tax or a raise in the tax. It’s not any different than what the state has been collecting for years, she said.

Second, Larson fears legislators will reduce local government aid because the money that had been in the general fund won’t be there anymore if the proposal becomes law, Larson said.

Mainly, Larson is concerned about how the money is dedicated. About 40 percent is already going to be dedicated to mass transit in the metro area. The other 60 percent is undedicated. Larson wants at least some of that 60 percent dedicated to roads, she said.

Larson listed two examples about how the lion’s share of funds went to the metro area. About $100 million had been taken from Greater Minnesota road funding and given to the metro area. Also, the 2003 transportation bonding bill was supposed to have been divided equally with rural areas, but the metro area ended up with 70 percent, she said.

Larson said some of the legislators and people in government agencies are annoyed at her wanting small towns to get a fair shake, she said.

“They might be mad at you at the time. But at the end, they respect you,” Larson told the Rotarians.

Larson was named one of the top 25 lobbyists at the capitol by the Minneapolis Business Journal.


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