The Star Tribune’s Steve Brandt has been covering the levy hike in Minneapolis–which passed on a 10-3 vote late Tuesday. Despite the fact that the taxpayers of Minnesota have already picked up the Minneapolis Employment Retirement Fund (known as MERF) for the city, Minneapolis will be cutting services and raising the levy in order to pay for its pension commitments.
St. Paul’s employees are in the plan known as PERA, which was about 69% funded last year (which meant a $5.6 Billion dollar shortfall), though it may be closer to 74% funded now. (St. Paul’s pension problems were covered in a recent story by the Pioneer Press.) While St. Paul officials deny any crisis for their pension obligations, the plan is not fully funded and the 2010 Omnibus pension bill, while nibbling at the edges of the problem, did not solve the long term problem for St. Paul.
This tale of two cities is being heard throughout Minnesota and the nation, as state and local governments struggle to pay sometimes lavish pension promises while struggling to keep up with basic services. More and more, residents will see the stark choice between meeting pension obligations and providing services like public safety and road and sewer maintenance–let alone fun things like parks and trails.