The annual therapeutic exercise is underway. After cutting up seed potatoes and getting more from green thumb gardener Mike Juenemann, those seed spuds sat in a holding pattern, in a bag, in a pail, on the porch. For a week they waited for our household’s chief procrastinator to finally get himself to the freshly tilled ground and get on with the garden planting. Those humble seed potatoes finally found their home this past weekend. You really can’t tap into garden therapy until you’re truly ready.

Well, that happened on Sunday afternoon, following the Mother’s Day festivities, when I found myself looking at my trusty garden rake and hoe and setting out to bury those seed spuds into the nicely turned black soil. The radish seeds followed and soon after I was planting pumpkin seeds, peas, squash, cantaloupe, watermelon and even some sunflowers. That was enough good therapy for one session.

All that remained were the green beans, cucumbers and tomato plants and there would be plenty of time for them. The need for the clear mind that planting a garden brings has to be balanced with the need for a back that hasn’t bent too much in a given day. Full of the garden’s dirt, I exchanged my rake and hoe for a glass of iced tea and a second trip to the shower. When Monday morning came around, the threat of rain looked large and all I could think of was getting more seeds into the ground. After some scratching around, the green bean seeds were dropped into four rows and I covered them up while rain drops were tapping me on the shoulder. I made a quick turn at planting some marigolds near the garden, to help steer the burgeoning rabbit population away and then some morning glory seeds near the house and I was done for the day, most of the garden planted before a run of rain this week.

The cucumbers would have to wait. I don’t recall ever planting them before Memorial Day anyway so there’s going to be plenty of time. The tomato plants we bought at Granite Floral can sit in their little cups for a few days yet which means there will be more meaningful garden therapy ahead.

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We joined about three dozen other mayors and other city officials from Greater Minnesota last Thursday at the state capitol to make our point about the lack of funding for cities across the state. The gathering brought together city officials of all stripes, from cities across the state that have a wide variety of circumstances, needs and issues, but share some very strong common bonds such as delivering basic services like police and fire protection as well as snowplowing, street maintenance, parks, swimming pools and other recreation facilities. And, many of the cities that were on hand last week, similar to Granite, operate their own libraries, airports, hospitals and electric utilities. The legislature, using the program of Local Government Aid (LGA), has been supportive of cities for many years.

LGA is a way of sharing property tax capacity and revenue among all cities in the state. The program recognizes that many important services that all cities are expected to provide, and the equipment that those services require, cost a certain amount of money. That’s true whether it is a small city with a limited property tax capacity and a limited budget or a large city with very high-valued property that generates lots of property tax revenue. That helps to ensure that all Minnesotans, no matter where they live, will receive a good base of locally provided public safety and quality-of-life services. That, in turn, helps to make all communities in Minnesota better places to live and helps make those necessary services more affordable.

It is a wonderful program that has served the state extremely well but became a source for budget-balancing revenue for money during the tough budget times in past years. These days, the state has a budget surplus and our goal as a group of Greater Minnesota cities is to get LGA funding restored back to the level it was in 2002. That doesn’t include any inflation that has happened in the past 15 years. Our cities are proposing to do that in two steps over the next two years which total $45.5 million. That would help nearly all cities in Minnesota with the delivery of services and with property tax relief. However, the legislature has other ideas. While it is still a work in progress, the tax bill they have proposed adds only about $6 million to the LGA program, for one year only.

After that, the LGA program would revert back to where we were last year. By our reckoning, that’s hard to figure. What’s even more perplexing is that the same tax bill provides tax relief involving the sale of cigarettes to the tune of $13.8 million during 2018-19 and grows to $39.4 million in 2020-21. Another questionable tax break comes in what is known as the “Angel Investment Tax Credit” and would cost the state $10 million in 2019. This is a program that gives a 25 percent tax credit to investors in start-up companies. Nearly everyone who has looked at past results says the program works very poorly. Over 90 percent of the tax credits, which result in a loss of revenue to the state, went to the metro area in 2016. From 2010 to 2014, the program created 579 jobs but cost the state in the neighborhood of $100,000 per job created.

That’s not a very good return on our tax money and does little to help greater Minnesota. The cigarette tax break and the Angel Investment Tax Credit both sound like misguided tax breaks that are serving special interests other than the people of Minnesota and would be better spent on an increase in LGA funding for cities in Greater Minnesota and the metro area. Making cities do with less in order to give tax breaks to a program that doesn’t work or to a program that buffers cigarette taxes sounds like bad policy. Let’s hope our area representatives instead stand up for helping Greater Minnesota cities and their residents and use that same money to help the cities in their districts. Now, maybe it’s time to set that all aside and get back in the garden. The therapy will be most welcome. __________ .