Minneapolis Fire Department would lay off eight under GOP plan

If Minnesota Senate and House Republicans get their way, the Minneapolis Fire Department is in for even more bad news.

Republicans announced a budget proposal yesterday that recommends cutting Local Government Aid to help balance our $6.2 billion deficit.

If the bill were to pass, Minneapolis would have to lay off eight firefighters, says John Stiles, spokesman for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

As we reported last November, years of cuts have left the fire department dangerously below industry standards. It's become increasingly common for rigs to be only manned by three firefighters, one short of the national minimum. Many in the department say day-to-day protocol has changed as a consequence of making due with a smaller staff, which often translates to slower responses and more time spent on the scene of an emergency.

The cuts have also taken a toll on firefighter morale over the years.

"Every morning we come in here and it feels like we're getting shit on," one firefighter told us in November.

When Rybak proposed his budget last fall, he announced that the department would shed 32 positions. At the time, he hoped to achieve these cuts through attrition and hiring incentives, though he noted that was only realistic if Minneapolis received Local Government Aid.

Click here for a November Q & A with Rybak on what more cuts mean for the fire department.

In a statement yesterday, Rybak says the Republican's proposal is unrealistic.

"The Senate Republicans' proposal is a one-legged stool of cuts only, with no new reform and no new revenue," says Rybak. "We've seen this movie before: they would simply continue a deeply misguided policy that passes the State's fiscal problems onto communities, is directly responsible for driving property taxes higher statewide and has hampered our ability to keep people safe."

On top of firefighter layoffs, the proposal would also cut funds to street and alley maintenance, says Stiles. So if some version of this bill does pass, don't expect those potholes to be filled in anytime soon.

The Republican's proposal is only step one in a long process. Gov. Mark Dayton will release a very different budget proposal next month.

Read more about cuts to the fire department here.

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