It’s an unwritten rule of politics: You don’t cut cops. You don’t cut firefighters. Especially not after Sept. 11, says the St. Paul Pioneer Press. That rule of thumb might be a thing of the past. Under pressure to trim anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars from municipal budgets, cash-strapped elected leaders in the St. Paul area are contemplating the once-unthinkable: taking the budget scalpel to public safety departments. “It’s the political third rail,” Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki said.
“We’ve heard anecdotally from a lot of our cities that they’re concerned that cuts would have to be made to their public safety,” said Rachel Walker of the League of Minnesota Cities. Those who protect and serve will feel the strain of the state’s $426 million shortfall, projected to snowball into a $4.85 billion deficit in the next two-year budget cycle, beginning July 1. After years of spending increases, taking from police and fire would represent an unusual about-face. Public safety budgets have, in many cases, ballooned since the terrorist attacks of 2001, growing to represent larger chunks of the municipal budget pie.