Observation after a few decades of watching Minnesota politics in action: when budget time comes around, DFL politicians do whatever it takes to wheedle more budget money out of everybody – taxpayers, government, whatever – they make the cuts that would seem to directly impact taxpayers.
For example – when school district administrations slash budgets, they start with (and publicize!) teacher layoffs, program cuts, building closings (especially in districts with lots of committed and vocal voters) and sports.
When things settle down, almost inevitably, things end up being a lot less catastrophic, for the simple reason that they never were in the first place. The whole thing was a dog and pony show, put on to scare and bully taxpayers and legislators at all levels into paying more.
This is especially true where Minnesota’s “Local Government Aid” program, or “LGA”, is concerned. LGA redistributes money from the parts of the state that are self-sufficient, to the parts that are not.
Pawlenty trimmed LGA six years ago (the DFL read that as “Slashed”), to balance the (at that time) unprecedented deficit the DFL and Ventura left him after squandering a billion dollar surplus on new spending. The DFL, especially the part that runs the state’s four biggest cities (Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Duluth and Bloomington) squealed like stuck pigs – but the cities went on.
They’re baaaack: Saint Paul mayor Chris Coleman has released his next year’s budget:
So why trim the muscle? Coleman wants to cut police in a city where, after decades of being one of the safest major cities in the country, crime is rising. He wants to hack away at a fire department that is by most accounts the best urban fire department in the United States. He wants to slash criminal prosecutors in a city that has a hard time getting even simple cases to trial.
Of course, the fat remains. Saint Paul maintains a Human Rights department which fully duplicates functions not only at the State, but in Ramsey County government. Its police duplicate many functions of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department. We’ve been on an orgy of building park and rec spending, including Mayor Coleman’s infamous push to build new outdoor hockey rinks in a city that is now screaming for money. And of course, Mayor Coleman’s government has made it impossible to put thousands of vacant homes back on the tax rolls.
The truth is out there:
Coleman, a Democrat running for re-election, also blamed Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty for “forcing” the cuts on the city by proposing to reduce state aid payments to local governments. Pawlenty has said the cuts were necessary to balance the state’s troubled budget.
Now, there’s plenty of fat in many of these budgets; the city got by with two police districts for many years (and does placid Highland Park need its own police station?). The city has also spent a king’s ransom building libraries (the Rondo library at University and Dale is a gold-plated wonder) and rec centers.
In the meantime, the city plans to close the Hamline Library. On the one hand, it’s small, old, “outdated” (I mean, all it has is books!) and the neighborhood is served by the newish Merriam Park library (about a mile away); if you HAD to pick a library (and presuming one could not bleem back in time and say “let’s spend less money on building libraries like Rondo, which are monuments to the wisdom of sitting library boards whose expense we can not possibly sustain in the long term”), it’d be a prime contender.
It’s also a library in a fanatically DFL-leaning district that’d still vote for the DFL’s hard-left majority at City Hall if the city carted our first-born off to labor camps in Idaho.
These “budget cuts” serve mainly to ratchet up the pain level for voters, to spur more public pressure on legislators (note the prominent placement of the state legislative angle in all of the coverage of this budget) to try to override any vetoes of LGA increases.