ST. PAUL - Moorhead is a different city today in part due to state aid sent to five Red River Valley communities, Mayor Mark Voxland says.

"We were losing businesses weekly," Voxland told a Senate committee Wednesday about the early-1980s.

When a state aid program for five Red River Valley cities passed in the 1983, things began to change and those communities started to compete with North Dakota, he said. "It stopped the hemorrhaging to a great extent."

Voxland said after years of Moorhead losing businesses and people, the population is beginning to rebound. Now, he said, businesses are beginning to come to town, including the recent announcement of a Menard's store larger than one in Fargo.

Moorhead, East Grand Forks, Dilworth, Ortonville and Breckenridge would share $1.5 million over the next two years. That is the same amount of money the cities have received in the past.

The Senate Taxes Committee heard testimony Wednesday, and will consider whether to continue the program later this legislative session.

The money is divided based on population, with Moorhead now getting about 60 percent.

Voxland, Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, and Moorhead Community Services Director Scott Hutchins told committee members that the aid helps compete with North Dakota business incentives such as lower taxes and better workers' compensation program premiums.

Voxland, an electrical contractor in private life, said one of the ways Moorhead uses the money is to pay local businesses like his to lower Minnesota workers' compensation premiums. The mayor said his business workers' compensation premiums would be half as big if he moved a mile to Fargo would be half the size they are in Minnesota, and the state payments help keep business on the east side of the Red River.

Senate Tax Chairman Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he would like to extend the aid, but he needs to negotiate with other Senate leaders about how much money his committee will have to spend.