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.

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2 Responses

  1. Governor Pawlenty seems trapped by the desire to be in the hunt for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. Accordingly he’s sticking to the familiar old “no taxes” refrain even though Minnesotans realize he imposed new fees to avoid calling them taxes.

    While it’s true that you can address budget shortfalls by cutting programs, at a certain level we’ve all bought into taxation by accepting the constitution. After all, there’s a mandate to provide for the common defense, which clearly requires revenue, insure domestic tranquility (again, no way to do that without revenue,) etc.

    So, while none of us LIKE paying unfair taxes (remember the Boston Tea party was about EXCESSIVE taxation) we don’t want to live in a place with no government whatsoever. We like our roads and bridges maintained, we like public schools and the men and women in various uniforms who serve our country.

    But the GOP would have us believe that any tax is bad, and that the government can’t do anything better than a private “for profit” approach. They’ve forgotten, evidently, that Fire Departments used to be “for profit.” That went very, very badly, and everybody prefers the current approach even though it’s not “for profit” anymore.

    It’s hard to put into sound bites to echo on the commercial media, Mayor, but your message resonates with the people. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for the feedback, realitytax. My main point regarding the Governor is that his refusal to be honest with taxpayers about the budget is a big reason why the state budget is in a giant deficit and will be for years to come.

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