GOP Proposes Cap on State Debt

Claims and Counter Claims on State BorrowingMNHouse-NoGasTax.jpg

Little progress has been made public on the transportation bill, tax relief, or the bonding bill.  Instead, the media has recently printed a number of claims and counter-claims.  Republicans want to prioritize spending and limit borrowing to sustainable levels.  Gov. Dayton and the DFL-controlled Senate, with support from the Star Tribune, continue to push for major increases in the level of state borrowing. 

Read on to learn how the DFL bonding proposal means higher debt without promised jobs

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Edina Board Can't Wait for Crumb Rubber Turf

As revealed during the 2015 referendum, the Edina School District desperately wants to be like other school districts.  Rather than forging its own path, as Edina has done for decades as it has become a leader in K-12 education, the District is now instead officially a follower engaged in a tireless quest to copy what it calls its “peer” school districts from around the country.  Indeed, in public comments, the District flaunts the administration’s frequent trips to California, Nebraska and Illinois to learn how to better copy other schools.artificial_turf_from_www_dot_ct_dot_gov.jpg

It should come as no surprise, then, that the District is following other school districts in contracting, by an April 25th vote, to spend well over $2,000,000 to install synthetic turf on four of the District’s athletic fields, including two brand new fields within the flood plain of Nine Mile Creek.  This time, however, the District’s desire to keep up with its peers is risking the health and safety of its students, staff and city residents as well as hundreds of thousands of people living downstream within the Nine Mile Creek Watershed. 

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Judge Rules on Bloomington Organized Trash Collection

In October 2015, five citizens brought a suit against the City of Bloomington.  The Bloomington city council wished to proceed to impose “Organized Trash Collection” by fiat. The city council had rejected an initiative put forth by these citizens that would have denied the City the right to impede “the competitive market in solid waste collection” unless first approved by a majority of the Bloomington voters.     

On April 25, a Hennepin County judge issued a ruling against the citizens’ suit.  He observed that, “Nothing in the [Bloomington] city charter authorizes or requires the direct approval of a majority of the voters before the duly elected city council may act.”  However, the judge further noted that if Bloomington’s citizens “wish to redefine the powers of the city council, they are free to seek amendment of the city charter.”

They will.   Read more to learn why, and how you can help.

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Excessive Bloomington Franchise Fees "Tax" Everyone

In Part 1 of our coverage of Bloomington’s newly-imposed gas and electric franchise fees, we wrote that Bloomington has justified these fees based on a projected shortfall in city revenue for street and trail maintenance. The projected 2016 shortfall was $550,000.  The City expects that the annual income from the fees will be $4.9 million. 

road-703804__180.jpgThe Bloomington city government had estimated street and trail maintenance costs at around $1.5 Million this year and $2.3 Million for 2017.  The City appears to be anticipating an exponential increase in street and trail maintenance costs, even though the key raw material in pavement repair is petroleum.    A review of the City’s cost projections appeared to be based on historically high petroleum costs.  Those costs have now dropped, but the City staff was unable to indicate what the impact of those lower costs would be on their projections.

The City’s Pavement Management Program has previously covered a majority of these estimated costs (the street maintenance portion).   However, the City is not offering any property tax reduction in light of the significantly higher income anticipated from the franchise fees.  Rather, the City is simply saying that property taxes will now not need to be raised as much as might otherwise have been required.

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Gas Tax? We All Need Good Roads

DFL targets metro drivers for $300 yearly tax increase

gas_pump_handle.jpgProposed new taxes would cost the typical metro driver an additional $24.50 a month (almost $300 per year), according to the Star Tribune. The Dayton/DFL transportation plan raises taxes by $11 billion over 10 years.

A new 6.5% gas tax would increase as the price of a gallon of gas increases. One-half of one percent would be added to our metro sales tax for transit. 

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Bloomington Imposing Franchise Fees for Road and Trail Maintenance

Everyone wants well-maintained roads and public walkways. The support for bike trails, while not universal, is vocal and gaining some popularity.  So you would think that these services might be a priority use of current Bloomington tax funds.

However, you’d be wrong.  The Bloomington City Council recently singled out a specific portion of Bloomington street Bloomington_St_Maint_1.pngmaintenance (street overlays) and all of its trail maintenance for new funding above and beyond the current city budget.  They decided to impose a flat monthly $3.75 per meter /address “city franchise fee” on both Xcel Energy (electricity) and CenterPoint Energy (natural gas) bills, starting in March 2016. These get directly passed along on the billing statements, so this adds up to $90 more per household (more for businesses, churches or nonprofits) per year in taxation hidden as a fee.  

Say, What??  Those new “franchise fees” that will be added to your gas and electric bills have got nothing to do with natural gas or electricity production or delivery of services.  They are a tax increase masquerading as a utility fee.

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Max Rymer Supports a Trash Collection Referendum in Bloomington

By Max Rymer

"Trash Hauling in Bloomington" - now there's a phrase I didn't think would come out of my mouth in any serious manner.

But serious is exactly what's happening right now. Bloomington's City Council, in essence, is deciding for its people that garbage hauling should be left in the hands of city and state governments.

Without the voice of the people in the form of referendum, or the possibility of choosing a type of garbage hauling service from the many capable small businesses that could do it, the Bloomington City Council has decided it will make the choice for its people.

This means: your voice is being silenced within your own community, government is attempting to overtake another role of small business (in a less efficient or cost-effective way, undoubtedly), and - potentially - you will be forced to patronize a single multi-region or multi-state hauler chosen by the city council. Not you.

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Does Edina's Grandview Development need TIF?

Congratulations, Edina.  Your taxes have been increased, again, by a secretive and anti-democratic administrative mechanism known as Tax Increment Financing (TIF).  Like public financing for all of our local sports stadiums, TIF allows public funds to be paid to the few, mostly large corporations, by the many, in this case the tax-payers of Edina.  Earlier this month, the Edina City Council voted to grant a future developer of the Grandview site a get-out-of-tax-free card for a minimum of 26 years.

A bit of background about TIF is in order.  The concept of TIF has been around since the late 1960’s but was first codified in Minnesota in 1979.  The concept began benignly enough: encourage the development of environmentally or economically “blighted” property through the use of tax incentives for the developer.  The original idea was that an inner city property owner would use tax funds to clean up contaminated property and would then return the formerly blighted property to the tax rolls, resulting in a net increase of taxes. 

Sadly, the idea has been so twisted and abused by city governments like Edina that it bears little resemblance to its original purpose. 

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Primary or Caucus? How about both?

The record-setting turnout at caucuses around the state has people talking about changing Minnesota’s system to hold an all-day Presidential Preference Primary vote.  MN Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey wrote a thoughtful article last week outlining the benefits of having both a primary and the caucuses.I_VOTED_graphicjpg.jpg

For SD49, our caucuses this year were crucial to connecting with interested voters and volunteers.  More than 1500 voters attended a SD49 caucus for the first time. This included dozens of voters new to our area.  They got to meet neighbors who agree with their GOP Principles.  

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Is a Referendum on Organized Trash Collection a Lost Cause?

Bloomington Council Ignores Petitions, Proceeding Without Vote

In its February 11 edition, the Bloomington Sun Current reported that the “effort to put [organized trash collection] to a vote of the city’s residents appears to have been a lost cause.”

This statement may be a bit premature.  The reporting was certainly incomplete.

The Bloomington City Council adopted its organized trash collection ordinance in mid-December on a simple vote of the city council members.  By the City Charter, residents had 30 days to petition the city to put the question to a vote of citizens.  Less than 1,250 signatures were required; approximately 1,400 were collected prior to the deadline. 

On January 15, a representative of the petition drive met with the City Clerk to discuss the Charter requirements and to review and turn in the petition. The clerk did a cursory review and indicated that the petition forms looked good and the quantity of signatures looked sufficient.

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