After weeks of speculation and concern over what would be cut from next year’s budget as the city seeks to offset rising employee healthcare and pension costs, Mayor Greg Fischer presented his proposal to the Metro Council on Thursday. Now, that body has two months to decide which of Fischer’s $25 million in cuts they want to keep, and which they want to change.
Chairman Bill Hollander (D-9) said the budget committee would hold up to 30 public hearings and meetings before final passage, including three where the public can comment. He said that number of meetings is typical, but that the process will be more difficult this year because of the size of the reduction. No council member will get everything they want, he said.
“That didn’t happen last year, the year before and a year I’ve been here and probably never in the history where everybody was happy with everything in the budget,” he said. “But hopefully we’ll come up with something that people think is the best use of the available resources. And we can get broad consensus.”
City government must implement the cuts because a measure to raise the insurance premium tax to cover the expected shortfall failed to pass the Metro Council last month. Hollander supported the tax hike.
Freshman Paula McCraney (D-7) was part of the bipartisan coalition that sank that effort. She said that she’s happy with her vote, especially now that it is clear that the level of cuts is lower than was first believed.
“We would have … voted on a tax hike that is perpetual, based on a false number,” she said. “So I feel very good about my vote.”
Kevin Kramer (R-11), who is vice chair of the budget committee and leader of the Council’s minority caucus, said he is pleased the deficit is smaller than originally thought. But he’s concerned that Fischer is proposing more than $9 million in cuts to public safety spending. He said that could change.
“We know the potential for moving things around and taking care of those things that are necessary,” Kramer said. “So I think we’re optimistic as a whole, I think the caucus is optimistic.”
The first hearing for public comment is on Tuesday, May 7. The full schedule of meetings is available here.
Note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct date for the first public hearing. The hearing is on May 7.