ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota State Senate President Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) and Representative Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth) announced legislation today to help cities and counties ease their financial burden when public safety employees go on military leave.
In Minnesota, many fire fighters, paramedics, and police officers are also members of the armed forces and Minnesota National Guard. Military service requires these employees to be away from duty while training or deployed, which can cause a decrease in staffing levels for fire and police departments. To compensate for staffing shortages, fire and police departments must often backfill for the absent military member with overtime. The increased cost can be a huge strain on already tight city budgets.
The Pappas legislation would reimburse local governments for the replacement costs of fire, police, and paramedic personnel on authorized leave for military service. “This legislation sets up an important fund to reimburse local governments when they are forced to hire temporary workers while their public safety employees serve in the military,” said Sen. Pappas. “It’s a common-sense bill designed to decrease the burden on our cities, counties and property tax payers.”
“For my City of St. Paul, our fire department spent $480,000 backfilling for military members in 2011 and $390,000 in 2012,” Pappas said. “Often the department cannot afford to cover the costs, and fire companies have had to be temporarily taken out of service, especially during weekends when the National Guard is training.”
The problem came about after the passage of the Minnesota Veteran’s Preference Act (MNVPA), which gives members of the military, both active and honorably discharged, preference in hiring for government jobs. As a result, many fire fighters, paramedics, and police officers employed by local governments are also members of the armed forces and Minnesota National Guard.
“There is no question that current and former members of the military make outstanding firefighters, paramedics, and police officers and deserve our continued appreciation for their service to us through the MNVPA,” said Sen. Pappas. “However well-intended the law was, it has come with a price that many local governments can’t afford. This bill helps out our cities, counties, reduces property taxes and addresses the downside of this good law.”