What it REALLY takes to tackle budget challenges

I’ve been spending most of the summer in meetings about our budget. They have been long, tough meetings because there are not easy solutions to the challenges brought on by the economy and the massive cuts from the state.

I have to admit it’s frustrating at times….we have a great team of managers at the city who have worked together to get the Minneapolis back on strong financial footing. But the financial chaos at the state, and Governor Pawlenty’s decision to pass off the state’s problems onto local government, has jeopardized all the progress we have made….not only in Minneapolis but in cities around the state.

I get into this because I came out of one of those long budget meetings today to hear remarkable news: Governor Pawlenty was out of the state again today, this time in California, to give a speech criticizing President Obama’s budget priorities.

Well I suppose I could let it go and say nothing. But I have to say that it’s almost unbelieveable to me that after creating complete financial chaos in Minnesota—-chaos that has taken police and firefighters off the streets, increased class size in schools, made it harder to afford college, and taken health coverage away from those in need—chaos that will leave this state in fiscal disorder for many years—our Governor is giving a lecture to the President about finances?!

There are two reasons why the city of Minneapolis will survive, and thrive, in spite of Pawlenty economics. First, we have made tough decisons based on long term planning, paying down $90 million in debt and making smart, strategic investments. Second, we have been helped by the support coming out of the Obama Administration, including $30 million in stimulus funds—most recently $3 million we learned about this week for keeping police on the street. I don’t know all the details about what advice Gov. Pawlenty is giving to those people in California, but I hope he’s not telling them how to help local governments.

I will present my budget Aug. 13 and look forward to any thoughts you have. (email me at rt@minneapolis.org). These are tough decisions but please know I will continue to keep public safety and job creation as our top priorities…and I believe we can once again deliver a strong budget that looks to the future.