Today, Senate Republicans previewed a bill that would hold cities accountable to pay their mutual aid agreements and prevent Governor Walz from diverting funds away from education and healthcare to cover cities’ public safety costs that defund the police.
“There are consequences to taking actions to defund the police. It doesn’t matter if you are a small town, a growing city, or a developed urban center: public safety is a priority you cannot ignore,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) said. “While the governor wants to set up a separate fund to bailout Minneapolis’s City Council from their poor budget decisions, we are holding the line and encouraging them to reconsider their priorities.”
“However,” Gazelka continued, “We still want to encourage mutual aid to keep Minnesotans safe. This bill will restore confidence to neighboring cities by ensuring that they are reimbursed when they step up to protect their neighbors with no additional cost to the taxpayers.”
The bill will be authored by Senator Bill Weber (R-Luverne), Chair of the Subcommittee on Property Taxes. It allows cities that provided mutual aid but haven’t been reimbursed for it yet to apply to have their Local Government Aid (LGA) adjusted to match the amount owed. The funds would be provided by lowering the LGA from the city that owes the mutual aid payment.
“Local Government Aid is a tool we already have funds for. Part of the $4.5 billion in new spending in Governor’s Walz’s proposed budget is this special fund to protect Minneapolis,” Weber explained. “Respectfully, we have to balance our state budget, and Minneapolis has the money for public safety. If they aren’t paying their bills or need more mutual aid than they can afford after defunding their own police by $8 million, we’re not going to ask taxpayers to foot that bill.” Weber continued, “This process is fair, it encourages law enforcement to be fully funded by cities, and it doesn’t take money away from the education or healthcare needs in the budget.”
A major concern with the governor’s funding is that while crime is rising to record levels in Minneapolis, the city council is actively looking for more ways to reduce police funding. Additionally, the disparaging attitude about police from the council has led to more than 100 officers leaving the force. The perception is Minneapolis will get to rely on statewide funds to provide for their public safety needs while other areas rely on tax revenues for public safety. It is essentially a bailout for defunding their police budget.
“Yesterday, the governor said to put whatever safeguards on his fund that we want,” Gazelka commented. “Well, we want to be sure that no city council who knowingly votes to defund their police department is bailed out by the rest of the state. Using LGA to reimburse unpaid mutual aid agreements are the guardrails we want in place.”