It means an enormous amount to me that last night, the City Council unanimously passed my final budget as mayor — one that cuts our property-tax levy for the first time in 30 years.
This is the third budget in a row in which nearly 70 percent of Minneapolis residents will see a decrease, or no increase, in their property taxes. But to actually cut the property-tax levy is an extraordinary moment.
At the same time, I’m just as proud that my final budget makes major investments in Minneapolis’ future: in home-growing a City workforce of tomorrow that looks like Minneapolis; in improving all parts of our infrastructure, including by investing more in the Nicollet–Central modern streetcar line; in greening our city to meet the challenges of climate change; and in the jobs, housing and population that will help Minneapolis and our economy continue to grow.
Getting to this point was extremely hard, and we faced many challenges along the way. And on top of those challenges, there’s always inflation to take into account: even if we hadn’t made one change from the 2013 to the 2014 budget, our costs would have gone up 2.8 percent. But the City Council and I were able to deliver major new investments in our values and our future while cutting property taxes, and there are three main reasons why.
First, we were able to do it because we made a decade of tough choices to restore Minneapolis’ fiscal health:
- We watched our own spending: in 2014, we will spend 16% less than we did in 2002.
- We paid down $350 million in debt.
- Against great odds, we reformed a broken closed-pension system that was draining taxpayers.
- We restructured City government.
- We delivered $5 million a year in property-tax relief through the stadium legislation, which for the first time also gave us practical control of sales and hospitality taxes generated in Minneapolis.
Meeting each one of these fiscal challenges involved dogged determination and great political courage, and had we not solved each one of them, our property taxes today would be 35 percent higher than they are. Every City Council member stood with me in solving one or more of these challenges, and I thank them all deeply for their support.
Help from Governor Dayton and the Legislature
Second, we were able to do it because this year, we finally got real help from the State of Minnesota. After a decade when the State routinely balanced its budget on the backs of property taxpayers, this year, Governor Mark Dayton and majorities in the Legislature changed course dramatically, and finally started investing in Minnesota and Minneapolis homeowners. The $12-million increase in Minneapolis’ Local Government Aid that they courageously won for us was a major factor in our ability to cut taxes this year. Every Minneapolis resident and business owes them a debt of gratitude.
Third, and most importantly, we were able to do it because for the last 12 years, we’ve had the partnership of people like you: the residents and businesses of Minneapolis. The bottom line is this: for many years when times were tough, we asked you to invest more to keep Minneapolis strong. Now that times are getting better, when Minneapolis is growing and is poised to grow even more, we are asking less.
For all that City and State leaders have done, both in recent years and over the past decade, to restore Minneapolis’ fiscal health, you — the residents and businesses of Minneapolis — are the real heroes of this story.
When I became mayor 12 years ago, I never suspected that one of the best parts of the job would be pouring over countless spreadsheets and pulling together complicated, billion-dollar budgets, but in fact, it has been. And knowing that Minneapolis is now healthy and sound is about the best job satisfaction I can imagine.
I thank you for giving me the privilege, and I thank you for your partnership.