City half-cent sales tax idea flops

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April 25, 2005 // UPDATED 1:54 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

It turns out the Minneapolis City Council asked for something not even its own legislative delegation could support.

Desperate to find money to shore up its police and fire budgets, the Council voted 7-4 Feb. 11 to ask the Legislature for a half-percent local option sales tax hike earmarked for public safety.

It wasn't the Council's first choice; it would prefer the state restore Local Government Aid (LGA) cuts. The sales tax increase was a last resort, many Councilmembers said.

As it turns out, it was a nonresort. No member of the city's legislative delegation has volunteered to author such legislation.

Gene Ranieri, the city's chief lobbyist, said Minneapolis legislators are concerned about adequate public safety spending but worry a sales tax hits the poor harder than the rich, and increasing it would make the city less competitive. They agree that the state should restore the LGA cuts.

"There doesn't seem to be a lot of interest at this time," in a local option sales tax, Ranieri said.

State Rep. Gregory Davids, a Republican from the state's southeast corner, did introduce such a bill. HF2183 would allow cities with more than 2,500 people to increase local sales taxes to pay for police and fire services. It is being deliberated in the tax committee.

Davids' bill has no coauthors as of April 14. Davids did not return a phone call seeking comment on the bill.

Ranieri said the Minneapolis Police Federation testified in favor of the bill. (A federation spokesperson did not return a phone call.) Ranieri said he did not expect the bill would pass; it has no companion bill in the Senate.

Minneapolis has 150 fewer officers than in the high in the 1990s, when it had more state and federal aid to support public safety spending. The city's overall crime rate remains down from its mid-'90s peaks.