Half-cent Sales Tax is Last-ditch Plan to Secure Light Rail Funding

The following article by J. Patrick Cooligan was published in the May 20, 2016 issue of the Star Tribune.

Half-cent Sales Tax is Last-ditch Plan to Secure Light Rail Funding

Opponents say half-cent increase would add to already burdensome rates. 

Legislators and regional transportation officials are increasingly eyeing a new metro area sales tax as a way to break up a bitter political deadlock over transit funding at the State Capitol.

The Metropolitan Council is rapidly running out of options to come up with $135 million needed to lock in critical federal funding for Southwest Light Rail Transit. GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt’s refusal to put state dollars toward the project has left few viable alternatives with only four days left in the session.

Gov. Mark Dayton, DFL legislators, local mayors and business groups are making a last-ditch effort to raise a half-cent sales tax in the seven-county metro region to expand a transit system that must accommodate 750,000 new residents who are expected here in 25 years.

“We think this is a long-term, sustainable solution,” said Adam Duininck, chairman of the Metropolitan Council, which manages the transit system with an average weekday ridership of about 275,000.

Opponents say sales taxes, particularly in Minneapolis, are already too burdensome and put retailers at a disadvantage in a global marketplace.

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