Budget passage is the payoff for partnership

I’m pleased to report that yesterday evening, the City Council unanimously passed the 2013 budget for Minneapolis that makes major investments in infrastructure, public safety, economic growth and reform.

With this budget, which cuts City spending by 3 percent compared to this year, 70 percent of Minneapolis homeowners will feel no increase — or will see a decrease — in their City property taxes next year.

This is a great budget for Minneapolis residents next year, but it was made possible by the tough financial choices that Minneapolis residents made over the previous 11 years to restore fiscal responsibility to our city.

  • Paying down debt. We have paid down or avoided $241 million in debt since 2002 and restored Minneapolis’ AAA credit rating.
  • Reforming pensions. After years of effort, we succeeded in merging several closed-pension funds whose taxpayer-funded obligations were exploding into the State’s retirement system. In 2012 alone, this reform saved taxpayers $20 million. Moreover, we will retire all of Minneapolis’ pension debt in 2012.
  • Holding the line on wages. We partnered with employees to hold the line on wages at several points during the last decade, which has saved jobs and help hold down property-tax increases.
  • Target Center. From 1994 through 2012, Minneapolis property taxpayers were unfairly saddled with $5 million a year in Target Center costs. As a result of the Vikings stadium deal that passed earlier this year, we lifted these costs off the backs of Minneapolis property taxpayers.

Had we not tackled these tough financial issues over the past decade, Minneapolis residents would be paying 35 percent more in property taxes than they currently are. This legacy of fiscal responsibility and stability that we leave to next year’s taxpayers and the next generation is nothing short of remarkable. Everyone can feel proud of it.

Key budget investments

The 2013 budget makes a number of critical investments in roads, safety and economic growth.

Infrastructure

With the passage of the 2013 budget, our level of infrastructure improvements next year will be three times higher than we planned just two years ago. This level of investment is only possible because we paid off other debt and restored our AAA bond rating.

Public safety

We are adding $2.5 million to the Police Department budget, with the aim of having 10 more officers on the force by next summer, and an additional $1.1 million so that the Fire Department can hire firefighters in advance of expected retirements.

Economic growth

We are continuing to invest in the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, which has produced strong results in job growth and training, business growth and development, and promoting transit-oriented development.

Regulatory Services reform

With the 2013 budget, we are also taking a significant step forward in delivering our critical core regulatory, health and licensing services more effectively — and saving significant sums of money in the process — through reforming our Department of Regulatory Services.

This reform will make it easier and more streamlined to do business in the City of Minneapolis. Although there was some opposition along the way, a strong majority of Council members supported this essential reform, which I proposed in my budget speech in August, and worked collaboratively over the past several months to improve it.

The payoff of partnership

If there’s another city in America with a more productive two-way partnership between government and residents, I’d be astonished.

For more than a decade, Minneapolis residents and elected officials have asked a lot of each other. We have asked each other for partnership in bringing down crime, and we’ve gotten results. We have asked each other through the recession for partnership in focusing on our economy, and we’ve gotten results. We have asked each other, sometimes through terrible tragedy, for partnership in rebuilding our infrastructure, and we’ve gotten results. And through it all, we have asked each other for partnership in restoring fiscal responsibility, and we’ve gotten remarkable results.

The budget that we passed last night is the payoff for that decade of partnership. I cannot thank you enough for it.

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