by Scott McClallen
Local governments are spending more taxpayer money on lobbying year-over-year, according to a report released Thursday by State Auditor Julie Blaha.
“Over the past five years, local government expenditures have increased by 11 percent on staff and contract lobbyists,” Blaha said in a statement. “When adjusted for inflation, the increase is approximately 4 percent.”
Blaha said remote hearings can reduce government lobbying expenditures.
“Part of local government lobbying costs are driven by the logistics of engaging with the legislature. Options to participate in hearings and committee meetings remotely may reduce travel costs, particularly for entities in Greater Minnesota,” Blaha said.
Of the $10 million: 115 local governments using their own staff or hired lobbyists spent $5.5 million while local government associations lobbying spent $4.5 million— $409,998, or 8%, more than in 2019.
Among the 25 local government associations that lobbied the Legislature for government members, 12 reported expenditures on lobbying over $100,000 in 2020 that accounted for for $3.9 million, or 86% of the total 2020 association lobbying expenditures.
Some local governments spend more than others.
Fifty‐two cities out of 853 reported a combined total of $2.3 million in lobbying services expenditures compares to 47 cities and $2.009 million in 2019. Nineteen counties out of 87 reported a combined total of $1.59 million in lobbying services expenditures over 21 counties and $1.63 million in 2019. Nine education entities out of 403 reported a combined total of $396,944 in lobbying services expenditures, compared to the same number of education entities spending $379,320 in 2019.
Ten of the 115 local governments that directly employed lobbying staff and/or hired contract lobbyists reported over $100,000 in lobbying services expenditures, for a total of $2.2 million. These 10 local governments accounted for 41% of the total amount paid to contract and staff lobbyists in 2020.
Local governments paid dues of $12.9 million in 2020 to local government associations that also represented their interests before legislative, administrative, or other governmental bodies.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Minnesota State Capitol” by McGhiever (CC BY-SA 4.0).