The Campaign Spot

About Those Minneapolis Police Officers the Stimulus Allegedly Saved . . .

Obama, last night: “There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.”

Not quite so simple. Because of declining tax revenue, Minnesota is providing a smaller budget allocation to the city of Minneapolis this year, about $13.5 million smaller. The city made up that gap by dipping into its reserve fund — and let’s offer a cheer for cities that actually put money aside for a rainy day.

To refill the reserve fund, the mayor is using $4 million from city departments that charge for their services and $5 million “created from the sale of the city’s share of the downtown Hilton Hotel.”

So they’re really looking at $4.5 million left to refill in the reserve account.

The 57 officer figure came from the mayor, who came to that calculation if he had applied the $13.5 million cut across the board in order to refill the reserve fund. But mayors have budget authority, and could make deeper cuts elsewhere to make sure that no police positions were cut. (It is unclear whether “police positions” and “police officers on the street” are synonymous — all of the police department’s cuts would have come from beat cops? No cuts in any other positions?)

In fact, that’s just what Mayor R.T. Rybak is doing with the hotel sale, the service charges, and other moves: eliminating the city’s health lab, merging the city’s Civil Rights Department’s complaint investigations function with the state’s, and not filling 27 currently open positions in city government.

Also note the stimulus is a one-time deal. The cuts are delayed, not prevented, unless we’re going to go through all this again and pass another $800 billion stimulus next year as well.

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