St. Paul seeking sales tax increase to fix roads

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The City of St. Paul is among 19 cities and counties seeking permission to hold referendums so local voters can decide whether to raise sales taxes.

St. Paul’s request for a one-cent sales tax increase is the biggest, potentially raising nearly a billion dollars over 20 years, mostly to fix city streets but also to pay for parks and recreation projects.

“As a lifelong St. Paulite it’s my birthright to complain about the condition of our streets,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter told the Minnesota Senate Tax Committee on Tuesday. “Decades of disinvestment by city and state leaders have resulted in extraordinary disrepair that our residents, commuters and guests experience almost constantly.”

Carter says about three-quarters of the one-cent increase would be dedicated to fixing city streets and one-quarter to parks and recreation. State law requires cities and counties to get approval from the state to hold local referendums to allow voters to decide whether the taxes will be raised.

“We are asking for the opportunity to take this question to our St. Paul voters so our St. Paul voters can make that decision for themselves if the dire and urgent needs within our city streets and parks are worth the one penny,” Carter testified.

Carter says claims against the city for pothole damage totaled 85 in 2022 and reached 250 in the first two months of 2023.

The city’s plan received pushback from the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. A spokesperson says 73% of the chamber members oppose the sales tax increase proposal.

“While the current administration and council may not be to blame for the condition of St. Paul’s roads, asking residents to vote to approve additional taxation to determine whether or not the streets are drivable abdicates their leadership role,” said Amanda Duerr of the St. Paul Chamber.

One St. Paul resident we talked to while shooting video of potholes outside her home said she’s tired of hearing cars hit the potholes. However, she’s also tired of tax increases after a recently property tax increase of nearly 15%.

“We already paid for the roads and everything within our taxes,” Bernae Verakruse told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “Why should we pay again to have them fix the roads? They want to double-tax us. We’re already paying for it.”

Among the other 18 proposals for local sales taxes are a third-of-a-cent increase for a new public safety facility in Rice County and extension of a half-cent sales tax in Excelsior to pay for more improvement to Commons Park on the shores of Lake Minnetonka.

All the proposals will be considered to be included in the final tax bill later in the legislative session.