Connecting state and local government leaders

Judge Orders Mayor to Turn In City’s Past-Due Budget

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Critics say that, unless the $1.4 billion fiscal plan in Minneapolis is turned in soon, there won’t be enough time to review it before public hearings begin next month.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has until Friday to produce a week-overdue completed 2018 budget for the city. If her office fails to hit the deadline, the mayor will have to explain the delay in court to Hennepin County Judge Mary Vasaly.   

City Attorney Susan Segal said that the judge had merely issued Hodges “a scheduling order.” But that court order had come in response to a complaint.

The budget was due Aug. 15. When it had yet to appear late last week, Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation member Carol Becker filed a complaint with the court. As the Star Tribune reported, Becker pointed out that the Minneapolis charter required the city’s chief executive to turn in a completed financial proposal early enough to give officials, staffers and members of the public enough time to review it.

On the day the budget was due, Hodges delivered instead a rough $1.4 billion outline. She proposed raising property tax revenue by 5.5 percent. She is scheduled to give a speech presenting the official budget plan on Sept. 12. Public hearings on the proposal are scheduled to begin the next day. The city council typically approves an amended budget sometime in December.  

Hodges explained that she has been busy in the wake of the baffling Minneapolis police shooting of Australian national Justine Damond and a gas explosion at a local high school that killed two people and injured nine. She also said she is waiting for the city’s new police chief to review the budget plan before she finishes it.

Hodges this week is also weathering local news reports that she had traveled to Los Angeles in the immediate aftermath of Damond’s death. While reporters from around the world were descending on the city, Hodges was eating dinner at the Wilshire Country Club, raising money for her reelection campaign.

Selling budget proposals rarely goes as smoothly as budget authors would hope, and Hodges is hitting bumps even before debate has officially begun.

Indeed, tensions around government budgets seem to be running particularly high this year. The budget drama in Minneapolis is another addition to an ongoing national story that has starred state lawmakers and governors.

Eight states this year failed to pass a budget on time. Four states endured partial government shutdowns. When members of the Illinois House voted in July to override a Gov. Bruce Rauner veto, they managed to at last pass a spending plan that had stalled for more than two years. The Associated Press reported that it had been “the nation’s longest fiscal stalemate since at least the Great Depression.”

John Tomasic is a journalist who lives in Seattle, Washington.

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