Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On budget cuts and selective math
During several press conferences and public events over the past few weeks (including yesterday’s), Governor Pawlenty has declared that his proposed local government aid (LGA) cuts for 2009 makes up only about 5 percent of city revenue base, the total revenue collected by Minnesota cities through levies (property taxes) plus state aids.

So given the state budget mess and the disastrous economy, why are mayors and councilmembers complaining about single-digit cuts? After all, any well-managed city should have no trouble trimming five percent from its budget with cutting police officer and firefighter positions, right?

Though technically accurate, the Governor conveniently neglects to explain that his 5-10 percent includes the total revenue collections for all cities in Minnesota, including cities that do not receive LGA.

Of greater significance, though, is the fact that among the 700+ cities that do receive LGA, the Governor has proposed a 15 percent cut in funding for 2009 and 30 percent in 2010. Those latter numbers are far more revealing in terms of real impact on the operating budgets of LGA-receiving Minnesota cities, and the ability of cities to pay for basic services.

Bottom line: City operating budgets actually pay cop salaries, and salaries for other key service-providing city employees. LGA makes-up a huge portion of operating budgets for cities—a larger portion than the Governor’s characterization leads us to believe.