Report: Local Minnesota governments and associations spent $9.7 million lobbying in 2019

Local governments are spending more taxpayer money on lobbying year-over-year.

Photo by Burst
Photo by Burst

(The Center Square) – Local governments are spending more taxpayer money on lobbying year-over-year.

State Auditor Julie Blaha stated in a new report that local governments and associations spent a total of $9.7 million lobbying in 2019, a $957,530 increase from 2018.

Of the $9.7 million: Local governments using staff or contract lobbyists spent $5.1 million, and local government associations spent the remaining $4.6 million.

“The Local Government Lobbying Services Report is a great example of the role the Office of the State Auditor has in providing transparency in local government finances,” Blaha said in a statement.

“This year’s report shows an 11 percent increase from last year on lobbying services expenditures. It is important to compare this year’s increase to other trends because the 2019 Legislative Session was 43 days longer than the 2018 Legislative Session.”

Blaha reported an increase in lobbying costs of 8 percent over the past six years.

Some governments spent more than others.

Of the 110 local government units that employed or contracted lobbyists to influence the legislature, 40 percent were cities, 32 percent were counties, 21 percent were other entities including metropolitan entities, towns, and service districts, while seven percent were related to education.

The report stated:

  • Forty-seven cities (out of 853) reported combined lobbying expenditures of  $2 million, compared to the same number of cities that spent $1.6 million in 2018.
  • Twenty-one counties (out of 87) reported combined lobbying expenditures of $1.6 million, compared to 20 counties and $1.3 million in 2018.
  • Nine education entities (out of 403) reported combined lobbying expenditures of $379,320, compared to the same number of entities spending $346,846 in 2018.

Ten local governments each spent more than $100,000 on lobbying in 2019, totaling $2.1 million and 41 percent of the total amount paid to contractors and staff lobbyists that year.

The top five were:

  • City of Minneapolis: $510,404
  • Hennepin County: $358,446
  • Ramsey County: $205,226
  • City of Saint Paul: $183,875
  • Saint Louis County: $176,742

Over four years, organizations employed different lobbying strategies.

The report found total expenditures on staff and contract lobbyists grew 9 percent; the amount spent only using contract lobbyists grew 17 percent; the amount paid using only employees rose 35 percent; the amount spent using contract and employee lobbyists decreased 6 percent.

Local governments paid $13.1 million in dues in 2019 to local government associations, which spent $4.6 million on lobbying – a 10 percent increase from 2018.

About 25 local government associations lobbied the legislature in 2019, the audit found.

Of those, 12 associations reported lobbying expenditures over $100,000 for a combined total of $3.9 million, or 85 percent of total association lobbying expenditures in 2019.