Local government lobbying topped $8 million last year

/ 25 June 2012 / jennifer

Jennifer Brooks, Star Tribune, June 25, 2012 –

Minnesota communities spent more than $8.3 million on lobbying last year, according to a new report from the state auditor’s office.

The 2011 Local Government Lobbying Services Report found a slight uptick in lobbying last year – both in the number of communities that were actively lobbying the state legislature, and in the money they spent to do it.

Minneapolis led the charge, spending almost half a million dollars — $467,139 — on lobbying in 2011; a year when issues like a new Vikings stadium still hung in the balance. And that doesn’t count all the other metro-area governments and sub-units of government also lobbying the Legislature.

In all, 82 local governments directly employed or contracted with lobbyists last year. Eleven of them racked up six-figure lobbying bills, including Hennepin County ($246,214),the Metropolitan Airport Commission ($172,105), Anoka County ($170,320), the city of Saint Paul ($161,098), Ramsey County ($148,375), the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board ($127,527), Metro Sports Facilities Commission ($120,338).

Lobbying by cities, counties, park boards, airport authorities, school districts and other local entities rose by $54,817, or 0.7 percent last year, according to a report released Monday by state Auditor Rebecca Otto. The 386-page report itemizes every dollar these units of government spent on lobbyists or lobbying activities.

“The operation and funding of local governments can be greatly affected by decisions made by the state Legislature,” the lobbying report notes. “Therefore, it is understandable that those affected by these decisions would want to have representation during the legislative process.”

The communities that couldn’t afford, or weren’t inclined, to hire lobbyists directly still had a voice through groups like the Minnesota Association of Townships.

Last year, Woodrow Township in Beltrami County – population 73 – paid $286 in dues to the township association. Seven percent of its dues, or $20, went to lobbying the Legislature on Woodrow’s behalf. Local governments spent $10.3 million on association dues, which in turn fueld $4.3 million worth of state lobbying.