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Op-Ed: Denver cuts budgets by $5 million to give migrants free housing

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Topline: The City of Denver announced $5 million in budget cuts to help pay for free shelter for migrants from the southern border, with more budget cuts expected.

But according to records at OpenTheBooks.com, roughly one-third of Denver city employees made six-figure salaries last year — raising the question of why city services that benefit taxpayers are the first to lose funding.

Key facts: Mayor Mike Johnston said on Feb. 9 that Department of Motor Vehicle offices will be closed for a week at a time on a rotating basis. The parks department will also see reduced funding, with recreation centers open for fewer hours and summer programming reduced by 25%.

With the border crisis worsening, Denver is projected to spend $180 million to shelter migrants this year, meaning additional budget cuts are sure to come.

If the city is worried about overspending, perhaps its $1.2 billion payroll should be the first fund account on the chopping block.

OpenTheBooks auditors found doctors making $373,000 and police officers making $281,000. Nearly 5,000 Denver employees took home more than $100,000 in 2023.

Then, the city paid $225 million into its employees’ retirement plans — Denver’s second-largest expenditure in 2023.

Background: Denver spent $42 million to house 38,830 migrants in the last year. There are 3,813 people currently in shelters.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott contributed to that total by offering migrants free bus rides to Denver, as well as Chicago or New York — all Democratic cities that Abbott says need to “understand what is going on” at the border. Denver has been a popular option and is now trying to bus those same migrants to New York and other areas.

Johnston blamed House Republicans for failing to pass a bill in February that would have accelerated asylum claims and work permits for migrants in Denver, lessening the need for free housing.

Johnston suggested that the GOP is intentionally avoiding solving the border crisis so that former President Donald Trump can campaign on the issue and boost his chances of winning the presidential election.s

Critical quote: “Residents of Denver should be heartbroken and they should be furious,” Johnston said in a video posted on Instagram. “All that we asked is for the federal government to do the very minimum of their part to help alleviate this crisis … [Trump] intervened with House leadership to kill the bill just so this crisis would continue.”

Summary: The City of Denver certainly could have found $5 million in its massive payroll rather than take money from important government departments to aid migrants. And that’s aside from the debate over whether Denver should be spending money to give immigrants free housing in the first place.

This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.

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