Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak says the ongoing fight over the federal budget in Washington, D.C., could force city leaders to cut funding for youth programs and strain the city’s public safety resources.
Rybak joined colleagues with the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to denounce planned federal budget cuts that could cripple city services across the nation.
The cuts would come under the so-called “fiscal cliff” that Congress approved last winter after Democrats and Republicans failed to agree on a long-term budget to reduce the national debt. Lawmakers never intended to implement the budget, which will require deep cuts and tax increases, also known as the “sequester.” But a budget impasse caused by congressional inaction has cities inching closer to the cliff.
The Congressional Budget Office has warned that if Congress doesn’t avert the “fiscal cliff” the nation will likely plunge into a recession in 2013.
In Minneapolis, the cuts would leave less money for youth violence prevention programs and STEP-UP, a summer job program for disadvantaged youth, along with cuts to the city’s firefighting programs, Rybak said. The youth violence prevention cuts would create more work for the city’s police force, he added.
The mayors, including Rybak, gathered at the National Press Club to urge congressional leaders to reach a budget agreement that does not hack away at local programs in areas ranging from education and job training to housing and public safety. Nationally, the cuts would put 2 million jobs at risk in 2013, the mayors said.
To offset the planned sequestration cuts, the U.S. Conference of Mayors is calling for a budget plan that reduces national defense spending and boosts revenue by closing tax loopholes.
“Sequestration is really just a fancy word for saying Congress didn’t do its job,” Rybak said. “It’s a tough decision for Congress, but it’s a tougher decision for somebody who wants their streets safe.”
Rybak later added that: "The federal government is pulling out the rug from under" key city services in cities across the nation. He is among 131 mayors who signed the letter addressed to leaders of the U.S. House and Senate.The Minneapolis mayor said he has also shared his concerns with members of the state's congressional delegation.
“We recognize the need for the federal government to get its fiscal house in order,” the letter read, in part. “We encourage you to work together to find a bipartisan and balanced solution to achieve deficit reduction that facilitates, not undermines, economic growth.”
Three other Minnesota mayors -- Chris Coleman of St. Paul, Elizabeth Kautz of Burnsville and Ardell Brede of Rochester -- also signed the letter.