For those of you not on Jerry Williams' mailing list, here's "Sales Tax Message No. 2," which went out today.
The matter of whether it's a new tax or not reminds me of the debate over extending tax CUTS at the federal level. The Bush-era tax cuts will expire at the end of the year; it takes action to "extend" or re-enact them.
Friends, Colleagues and Fellow Citizens (there are now over 300 of you receiving this message!):
We continue the effort to renew the ½ cent local sales tax in order to support the community’s need to address significant capital projects and its commitment to economic development. The revenue stays here, creates jobs, minimizes property tax increases, and up to ½ of the total is paid by visitors to our community.
A few weeks ago, when we were in the later stages of the Rochester Fest parade, one of the individuals helping with the parade called me over to the side and asked, “Jerry is this really only a nickel on a ten dollar bill?” “Yes it is,” I said, “and in fact if you spend that $10 on food from the grocery store, clothing or prescription medicine, you pay no tax, just like the state’s sales tax guidelines.” He then indicated to me that he was voting ‘yes.’ The formula is really that simple and very minimal from a taxing standpoint. This is not a new tax, and the benefits are so positive, as can be seen in past projects throughout the community.
I’m occasionally asked a question, and you may also have seen a commentary about the list of proposed projects being called a “wish list.” In my opinion that type of list, containing 54 projects and costing $422 million was the one presented back in the summer of 2010 when the citizens committee began to meet. Through various steps, that number was reduced to the current ten, costing $139.5 million. Proposed projects that involve public safety, transportation, our seniors and youth, higher education, jobs and economic development are, in my opinion, on the “necessary list” in a growing and maturing community, not a wish list. I can assure you that as chair of the citizen’s committee, we were very thorough in examining requests for the value that they brought to the community.
Other comments/questions that occasionally come to me:
· Does any of this revenue go to operational funding of the City? No, it goes to capital projects and economic development activity. None of the projects are anticipated to require any additional City staffing resources from the general fund. In other words, this renewal does not expand government nor does it add to its debt.
· The total cost will be in excess of $200 million. No, that is not true. Even with some bonding costs included, the total collected is not expected to rise above $150 million and will be collected within the next fifteen or fewer years.
· Is the Mayo Civic Center expansion part of this? No, it is not. That funding is part of the legislative process and separate from this.
· Is the funding restricted to a certain list of projects? Yes, it is. The legislation is very restrictive, tied to very specific project categories and the specified dollar amounts set a maximum and cannot be exceeded. This provision adds to the renewal being fiscally responsible and with a very high level of accountability.
For more information on this vote, including a comprehensive list of past and future projects, please visit our website: www.commoncentsrochestermn.com . If you have a question for me, please do so with a reply to this email or through the special feature on our website – just click on the funny picture. I will absolutely answer it.
In the meantime, please spread the word, including forwarding this email to others if you wish, encourage them to support a ‘yes’ vote, and most importantly, go to the polls and vote. This is an opportunity to continue to move our community forward in a positive and decisive way rather than, as some would want us to do, stand still and let the future just happen to us with little or no pre-planning.
See you again in a few weeks where my topic will be the education benefits of renewal. It’s Common Cents! Please vote Yes!