Rochester leaders today called on House GOP Majority Leader Matt Dean to let the citizens of Rochester vote on a $160 million local sales-tax option as proposed by the city. They voiced anger about changes made to the proposal by House lawmakers who stripped out $58.5 million worth of projects.
"Rochester is fully capable of making intelligent deicsions as to how we want to spend our money and don't tread in that area is my recommendation to you because it is a hot subject in town," said Rochester resident Chub Stewart.
Dean and Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, were in town for a luncheon with Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce members. It soon became clear that the number one issue among those in the room was the city's sales tax.
Rochester City Council President Dennis Hanson said the city had a committee of citizens that spent 14 weeks analyzing proposals for the city sales tax.
He asked, "I guess my question is why does the state legislature seem to feel they have to get so involved in Rochester's local option sales tax when they really could quite frankly care less about the rest?
That question drew strong applause among the roughly 50 attendees. Dean ended up apologizing to the city of Rochester saying that there appeared to have been a miscommunication on the sales tax bill.
"It sounds to me like this process probably got sideways somwewhere along the way and there was probably communication problems from working together," he said, "and I just want to apologize for that with the city and the folks who brought these (concerns) forward."
The city needs the legislature to give it the authorization to put the sales tax measure before the voters. House Taxes Committee Chair Greg Davids has been an outspoken critic of some of the projects in the proposal including a senior center, a youth center, and a library expansion. He supported the move to cut down the size of the sales tax proposal. A Senate version of the measure sponsored by Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, has remained intact.
I'll have more on this in a story for tomorrow's paper.