MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Conversations are underway in St. Paul that could affect anyone who eats or shops in the city.

Whether it’s the Winter Carnival or a summer celebration, out of towners descend upon the Capitol City each year, and now some leaders are hoping to capitalize on that with a new sales tax.

St. Paul City Councilmember Jane Prince is a proponent.

“It would give us an opportunity not only to collect tax dollars from people who live here, but also from the huge numbers, the millions of people who come to the capital city every year,” Prince said.

She says it would be a 1% tax on purchases within the city like food, cars, books and other purchases — except for groceries and clothing.

“The reason for it is that there have been such steep cuts in federal and state aid over the last couple of decades that cities just can’t continue to rely exclusively on the property tax because it’s pricing people out of their homes,” Prince said.

Aurielle Pearson is a devoted shopper and mother of four. She says she’s not so sure about paying another tax.

“Because we have taxes, property taxes, sales taxes on other things that should be going to fixing the roads and schools and stuff like that, that hasn’t really done much to a lot of inner-city areas,” Pearson said.

The city council wants to hear if shoppers and store owners are buying in, but Councilmember Prince say first thing’s first.

“I am not going to engage in a discussion about raising tax revenue without taking a really close look at how we use the dollars we have more efficiently,” Prince said.

There are still a few more steps before shoppers would have to shell out the extra money. It would have to be approved by council, then by lawmakers, then by voters.

The next step is for council to decide on a resolution to explore the option of a new sales tax. Councilmember Prince asks that anyone with opinions or ideas should contact the city council.

St. Paul Chamber of Commerce President and CEO B Kyle gave this statement to WCCO:

The last time we did a half-cent sales tax, in the early 1990s for the Civic Center, we spent a year and engaged business, the chamber, politicians, and residents in thoughtful discussions on the impact it would have. The Chamber is willing to participate again if we’re asked, with a timetable that makes sense. We feel strongly that anything that is proposed must engage our members — large and small — and right now it’s too early to know. It still needs a lot of work, and would require the support of the governor and a divided legislature — all of whom would have lots of questions. Finally, if the City Council is to be successful in adding a sales tax, we should be looking at reducing property taxes. This can’t be just another addition.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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