Yesterday, Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) held a press conference and his office put out the following release, calling for $35 million to be budgeted for extraordinary circumstances of public need. During which he was joined by Department of Public Safety (DPS) Commissioner John Harrington; President and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council Steve Cramer; Centerville Mayor D. Love.
The State Aid For Emergencies (SAFE) Account would provide state assistance to local governments during extraordinary events
Governor Tim Walz today highlighted a budget proposal to improve public safety across Minnesota through the State Aid for Emergencies (SAFE) Account. The SAFE Account would provide public safety cost-share assistance through a reimbursement mechanism to local governments during an unplanned or extraordinary public safety event that exhausts available local resources, including mutual aid.
“Over the past year, Minnesota has experienced some of the most significant public safety challenges in a generation,” said Governor Walz. “While we cannot predict every challenge that may arise, we can and must be prepared to protect the safety of all Minnesotans. The SAFE Account does just that. By helping local governments with expenses that arise from extraordinary events, we can ensure that the safety of Minnesotans remains the utmost priority.”
“Ensuring safe communities throughout Minnesota is a priority of our administration, as we continue to work toward a future where all Minnesotans are protected and respected by law enforcement,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “As our small businesses continue to rebuild following the civil unrest last summer, and as state capitols across the country see increased security risks following the attack on the U.S. Capitol this past January, the SAFE Account helps ensure that our communities are protected as we move forward together.”
Local governments across the state will be able to apply for reimbursement funding through the SAFE Account following an extraordinary public safety event. In the immediate term, the budget proposal will help secure the necessary public safety resources in advance of the spring trials of the former officers charged in the death of George Floyd.
“As we prepare to keep the peace in anticipation of the trials of the former officers involved in the death of George Floyd, we are working with our state and local law enforcement partners to prevent crime so that people’s voices can be heard,” said Commissioner of Public Safety John Harrington. “We’re asking legislators to take swift action to make this funding available so we can be fully prepared to keep Minnesota’s homes, places of worship, and workplaces safe.”
Currently, there is a gap in state assistance for local governments when a public safety event occurs in their community that is significant enough to exhaust local resources. The $35 million SAFE Account would help keep Minnesotans across the state safe by reimbursing local governments for public safety needs. Eligibility occurs when an emergency is declared, when all mutual aid has been exhausted, and when the event is not covered by other federal and state disaster assistance programs. Eligible expenses are overtime costs, travel expenses, food, lodging, and incidental supplies for law enforcement officers.
Today, Senator Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) held his own press conference also in attendance Senate Property Tax Subcommittee Chair Bill Weber (R-22, Luverne), and a press release in response to discuss a bill being crafted in the senate. He again inappropriately equated the violence in Minneapolis in response to the death of George Floyd last summer, with the insurrection at our Nation’s Capitol when he said, “All violence should be considered unacceptable. Any violence in Minneapolis, any violence in Washington, DC.”
In his press conference, Gazelka sought to emphasize three points.
- Everyone deserves safe streets.
- Minneapolis should be expected to have adequate police.
- Minneapolis needs to pay for needed help of mutual aid when they need it.
The general crux of the conversation from Republicans is they believe Minneapolis’ Local Government Aid, should be redirected to the communities who responded to the riots and mayhem should be reimbursed from Minneapolis. The failure to reimburse communities who came to the call from mutual aid agreements means they are hesitant to sign such agreements and also to respond.
Senate Republicans hold cities accountable to pay public safety bills, provide LGA reimbursement process for mutual aid
Today, Senate Republicans previewed a bill that would hold cities accountable to pay their mutual aid agreements and provide a process for public safety reimbursement without diverting funds away from education and healthcare.
“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 increase in 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.”