MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Republicans and Democrats continue to clash over who should be on the hook for the added costs for additional law enforcement help in Minneapolis ahead of Derek Chauvin’s trial for George Floyd’s death next month.
The mass shooting at a Buffalo clinic added a new layer to debate, after Minneapolis police helped with the response.READ MORE: M Health Fairview's Volunteer Effort Crucial To Vaccine Distribution
A Senate panel on Wednesday heard a GOP proposal that would pull money from a city’s share of state local government aid funding to reimburse mutual aid costs left unpaid.
The effort is a move by Republicans to counter Gov. Tim Walz’s pitch for a new $35 million account for cities to be reimbursed for any overtime or damaged equipment costs incurred while assisting another local government in the event of an emergency.
Walz’s plan is backed by the Department of Public Safety, which has said the account will help with the unprecedented level of security preparation for the trials of the ex-officers charged in Floyd’s death. Chauvin’s trial begins March 8.
“Not being prepared for this would be a dereliction of duty,” Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington told the Senate subcommittee Wednesday, saying he’s worried about the “chilling” effect the proposal to tie local government aid to mutual aid reimbursement might have on public safety.
Local government aid is a share of state revenue allocated to cities to provide property tax relief and support essential services like fire and police.
“That may cause me to pause and think about why I really want to call in mutual aid. Do I want to call in additional resources if I know that on the back end, I’m likely to see my budget cut?” he said.
Wednesday’s hearing in the Senate came less than 24 hours after one person died and four more injured in a mass shooting at Allina Health Clinic in Buffalo Tuesday morning.
The suspect, Gregory Ulrich, 67, will soon face charges of second-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder, according to Wright County Attorney Brian Lutes.READ MORE: Friday Is Declared Tyler Johnson Day
Those who testified against the Republican plan to cut from local government aid for mutual aid costs noted the Buffalo shooting and how multiple state and local law enforcement agencies—including Minneapolis’ bomb squad—dispatched to help.
“Just yesterday the city of Buffalo experienced an unthinkable tragedy. Communities from across our state, including Minneapolis, rushed to the scene to assist,” said Jonathan Weinhagen, president of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber. “They didn’t haggle over price or terms, they just showed up because that’s what Minnesotans do.”
Sen. Matt Klein, DFL-Mendota Heights, asked Harrington if it would be standard protocol for Minneapolis to seek reimbursement for their assistance in Buffalo.
Harrington said in his 40 years in law enforcement he had never heard of Minneapolis or St. Paul billing another city for mutual aid. He also noted most mutual aid situations are one to two days for an emergency, not multiple days or potentially weeks, which could happen in the case of the trials for George Floyd’s killing.
Republicans, though, believe strongly that Minneapolis should reimburse cities for mutual aid costs and that greater Minnesota shouldn’t be “on the hook” for additional security through the state fund Walz is proposing, after the City Council removed about $8 million from the Minneapolis police budget and allocated it to other public safety purposes.
“We should not be rewarding bad behavior,” said Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault. “Not funding their police appropriately has caused this issue.”
Harrington noted other high-profile events that required added security, like the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2008 and the Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium three years ago, had “outside resources” to fund the expenses so local governments didn’t have to absorb those costs.
“Among those lessons learned [from last summer following George Floyd’s death] was finding a funding solution for mutual aid,” Harrington said. “We believe this is a critical need.”
The GOP proposal advanced along party lines Wednesday and the governor’s SAFE account bill is moving in the DFL-controlled House. A compromise will be needed in order for anything to pass.MORE NEWS: Standoff Continues In Duluth After Suspect Fatally Shot K-9 Officer
Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday that all flags at state and federal buildings will be flown at half-staff until sunset on Sunday in honor of the Buffalo victims.
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