'Temporary' sales tax has a permanent feel

Is a 50-year tax really temporary?

Rochester is proposing a 20-year extension to the "temporary" half-percent city sales tax. In Minnesota, the purpose of a city sales tax is to help fund a critical project that is above and beyond normal city functions.

The project that initiated the sales tax was flood control to protect the city from another devastating flood like the one in 1978. That was a legitimate use of a city sales tax. The sales tax has been extended multiple times over the last 30 years to pay for other projects — a few of vital importance to Rochester, but most not so vital.

With the sales tax about to expire, the city scrambled to identify projects to justify extending it for 20 more years and came up with a wish list of miscellaneous projects, none of which rises to the critical level of flood control. They are asking for $47 million for various transportation projects, $26.5 million for U of M/RCTC-related projects, $20 million for a new senior center and upgrades to the recreation center, $8 million for another 911 center, $20 million for something called Destination Medical Community — which isn’t even defined — and $10 million for an economic development slush fund.

While these may be nice-to-do projects, they are all optional and none of them meets the standard for funding via a city sales tax. If this measure passes, it will mean Rochester’s "temporary" sales tax will last for 50 years.


So when you see it on the ballot this November, please just say "no." 

James Baker


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