I can't imagine Rochester City Council President Dennis Hanson really intended to get into this issue at this time, but regardless, he's in it now.
Yesterday at the Chamber's Eggs & Issues breakfast, he asked Gov. Mark Dayton's jobs advisor, Kathy Tunheim, if the governor would go to bat for the city to move up election day for the proposed local option sales tax.
Tunheim demurred. Apparently Denny brought it up on radio this morning as well, and the switchboards have been lighting up with comments pro and con.
Here's one of the latter (unedited):
It is obvious that you have your position at the Post Bulletin due to your writing ability. I would be happier though if you included a few facts with our commentary. It is true Dennis is very upset about the opposition to his sales tax proposal but it is not true that it is only from the Tea Party.
The Tea Party is a group of individuals who have common ideas about lower taxes, less government and fiscal responsibility in government or don't spend money you don't have. They are composed of Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Most of them, like myself, have seldom been involved in politics before and only recently became interested because they do not like the way government keeps wanting more and more and more.
Once a politician at all levels gets elected their main objective is to get re-elected and that means they need money to do it. They look around and find that if they support this project or that project they make those people happy who will then vote for them. This is the case with the City Sales Tax. The initial reason for the Sales Tax was to support the flood control program started up in 1982 and voted on in 1983. Once it was instituted, some of the "smart" people of the city had a brain storm called an extension. After all this will keep property taxes low! That is why this tax has supporters is both parties.
The first amount of money needed was $32 Million which was supported by $120 Million of Federal Funds. Since they they have added another $110 Million or so in addition to paying for bonds. Over the years they have developed several clever tactics to keep this money flowing in. One such tactic is to create a board of volunteers from the community of 12 people to look at the requests and to prioritize them. This is just a ruse to solicit support. After all if you feel you are part of the process then you will add your support. I went to about two thirds of these meetings and they were pretty much the same. We want money, you give us money. No justifications were asked for or offered. In one case (which was approved) they had no plan, didn't know how much money it would take, and had no time schedule to work from, but it is a good idea and will create jobs.
Once this board completed its task they sent a prioritized list to the City Council. Then the Head of the City Council selected three and the Mayor selected three to be sent up to the capitol for approval. The prioritization list made no difference. The proof is that one of the selected projects (library) had no votes from the board and was selected any way. The State Committee chose to not fund it. The only purpose of the board was and is to solicit support for the tax.
Another cute tactic is to have the referendum during a "special" election. They did this five times with great success. Not surprising when you think about the people getting the money got their supports out. During the "special" elections the turn out was in the range of 17% to 18% with a vote for about 72%. They keep saying that those of us more concerned with other activities then voting for one issue had our chances to voice our opinions. In my case, I don't even remember the election being held.
For the first time this issue will be brought up in a general election and Dennis Hanson is concerned. For the first time the majority of the voters will have a say in the decision and Dennis is scared! This is why he mentions the benefits of the Sales Tax at every opportunity he gets, even if the topic is not germane to the meeting he is attending.
Lets look at his arguments.
!) The increase in building will bring more jobs.
This was tried at the national level and proved false. This was tried at the State level and proved not to be true. Now we need to try it at the local lever?
2) Those who live out of the community will help pay for infrastructure they use.
What is happening is that all the communities have learned this and they want their own sales tax to pay for their infrastructure. One by one all the communities are following suite and it just amounts to higher taxes for all.
3) If it is not paid for with a sales tax then property taxes will have to go up.
True, unless you don't spend the money in the first place. A third option they never mention.
I know that will all the people receiving benefits from this sales tax, this is an uphill battle and the supporters have deep pockets and are willing to spend our money to fill their pockets, but it is a fight that has to be fought.