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Coleman mayoral challenger Eva Ng doesn’t mince words about St. Paul budget address


St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s main challenger for re-election — though if he announces a gubernatorial run, as expected, there’ll be lots of main challengers — didn’t think much of Tuesday’s budget address.

Eva Ng, endorsed by the Repubican Party, attended the speech but didn’t get much ink for her response in the local press. Today she told me:

“The body of his text is a bald-faced lie. He said we have to do more and more with less and less. That’s absolutely a lie.”

She said the city’s adopted budget in the last three years has gone from $500 million to $620 million. “He acts like we’re operating with nothing, and that’s not true,” she said.

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(My read of the city’s finances shows a 2009 adopted budget of just more than $600 million, up from 2007’s actual budget of $492 million. These figures don’t include deductions for transfers and previous years’ debt. Including those deductions, the city’s “adjusted financing plan goes from $446 million in 2007 to $513 million in 2009.)

She also said the city’s population is declining, “and God knows what the decrease in business has been.”

Calling for a tax hike, she said, is “unconscionable.”

Coleman’s proposed 2010 budget, which has to go through the City Council, calls for 34 new police officers and 18 new firefighters with layoffs of about 45 other city workers. It also proposes raising the property tax levy 6 percent.

Said Ng: “People are saying that’s unacceptable. They want a property tax freeze, or a decrease.”

She said she’s flattered that Coleman has “borrowed some of my ideas, like elimination of duplication of effort,” but says that is just a short-term fix that doesn’t address the bigger problems of high taxes.

“The guy’s got no clue,” she said.

Also running against Coleman this fall are perennial candidates Sharon Anderson and Bill Dahn.

It sounds like it might not be a particularly civil campaign.