By Mike Austreng, Editor
As you’ll see in another article in this paper Stearns County Commissioners voted (3-2) to implement an increase in our sales tax. The tax will go up .25% starting January 1, 2018. That means Stearns County shoppers will pay 7.125% sales tax on taxable items.
We won’t complain about the one quarter of one percent increase, that’s only 25 cents on a $100 purchase, but we do question how our county could reach a point where it’s $10 million a year short of the money it needs to keep our roads in good condition.
Some of the blame has been placed on “reduced or stagnant” state and federal funding – this is another example of what we’ll call the trickle down effect of our government. When the state and federal governments brag about keeping taxes low all it really means is we’ll end up paying it another way.
In the article the increase is expected to generate about $6 million a year and we’re told that after five years, or when all designated projects are completed, the tax will sunset – unless the commissioners at that time go through a public hearing process all over again. We have a difficult time figuring out how a $6 million increase is going to cover a $10 million shortfall, so we’d be very surprised if the increase will go away in five years – we’ll go out on a limb and say we doubt it will ever go away. If you don’t agree, ask yourself when the last time was that you saw a tax go down, or go away.
Do you remember when Minnesota’s sales tax was 3%? That was back in 1967 when sales tax got started. The rate increased to 4% in 1971, then to 5% in 1981, then to 6% in 1983, then to 6.5% in 1991 and finally to 6.875% in 2009. The state allowed counties to impose up to an additional .05% sales tax to cover transportation projects.
The history of sales tax in our state doesn’t show any promise for a decrease. We doubt the county will drop the .25% increase after five years. We wouldn’t be surprised if commissioners decided to increase up to the allowed .5% at some point.
There is no question the roads and bridges in Stearns county need improvements. Some are matchpretty good, some aren’t too bad, but there are many that are terrible.
We already pay a gas tax on every gallon of gas we purchase that is supposed to be used for road construction (repairs). We pay a license tax for our vehicles that we assume is meant to be spent on our roads. Now we’re adding another tax, on things we want and need, to pay for road projects in our county.
We don’t know too many people who like taxes. Yes, they are necessary, but the list of taxes we pay is getting way too long and when an increase comes along we can’t help but wonder if there isn’t another way – like maybe find some areas to make cuts – to fund the more important things taxes pay for.
Richmond’s River Lake Days are over, Hometown Pride Days in Cold Spring is just over a week away. Not long after that is the Saint Boniface Parish Festival. Wow. Shortly after that school starts again.
Enjoy the summer days while you can. They are passing much too quickly.
Have A Good Week!