Gov. Walz pushes for $35M fund to keep peace during Chauvin trial, but immediately rejected

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Thirty-four days before the trial of Derek Chauvin, Gov. Tim Walz is seeking $35 million from taxpayers to pay for law enforcement to keep the peace during the Chauvin’s trial.

Chauvin stands accused of killing George Floyd last May.

The Walz administration is pursuing the creation of the $35 million State Aid for Emergencies Account (SAFE).

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, immediately rejected Walz’s proposal.

“We are not going to bail out Minneapolis city council after they have made cuts to the public safety budget,” Gazelka said in a statement.

“Actions to defund the police have consequences. Instead, we will propose an alternative later this week to make sure mutual aid will be reimbursed, law enforcement can respond, and without taking general fund dollars away from education, healthcare, or transportation.”

Minneapolis is embroiled in a lawsuit accusing the city of staffing too few officers, violating the charter agreement.

Three Minnesota police groups on Tuesday said response for mutual aid might suffer because of political rhetoric against police officers.

“Our members remain concerned … no matter what legislation is passed, the response for mutual aid will not be as robust as the public may expect. Our members’ concern is due to the continued demonization of law enforcement officers by certain public officials at various levels of government,” they wrote.

The SAFE Account would provide public safety cost-share assistance through a reimbursements to local governments during extraordinary public safety events that exhaust local resources, including mutual aid.

“Over the past year, Minnesota has experienced some of the most significant public safety challenges in a generation,” Walz said.

“While we cannot predict every challenge that may arise, we can and must be prepared to protect the safety of all Minnesotans. The SAFE Account does just that. By helping local governments with expenses that arise from extraordinary events, we can ensure that the safety of Minnesotans remains the utmost priority.”

Eligibility occurs when an emergency is declared, all mutual aid has been exhausted, and when an event is not covered by other federal and state disaster assistance programs. Eligible expenses include overtime costs, travel expenses, food, lodging, and incidental supplies for law enforcement.

“The voice of Minnesotans can’t be heard when there’s the sound of alarms, glass breaking … Burning buildings … that the right of the people to have their voice heard was compromised by the riot,” Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said.

The $35-million bill passed a House Committee Tuesday but faces bad odds in the Senate, where Republicans have also rebuffed Walz’s request for all Minnesota taxpayers to foot a $150 million bill to rebuild Minneapolis after May riots.

Walz declined to share his “Plan B” if lawmakers don’t pass the bill. But Harrington said he’s “very confident” they will be able to protect the state of Minnesota, even without the $35 million fund.

“It will be harder if we don’t pass this,” Walz added.

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