Minnesota's "no new taxes" concept can be taken too far.
While no one likes to pay them, taxes are the revenue stream that pays for police and fire protection, safe roads, education and many other amenities. If government were to cease providing those services, the citizenry would raise a tremendous fuss.
Baxter residents voted 2,177-1,599 in favor of a local option sales tax of .5 percent for their city last November. The money would be used to fund big-ticket items, water and wastewater infrastructure, a water treatment plant, a water tower and expanded wastewater treatment capacity. Motor vehicle sales would be limited to a total tax of $20.
One would think that once the decision was made at the polls the citizens could initiate the tax, but approval from the Legislature is necessary. Apparently, legislative approval of Baxter's local option sales tax isn't a slam dunk. The city had to authorize spending $15,000 to hire an attorney to advocate for the measure.
The Legislature, like an over-protective parent, apparently wants to protect Baxter citizens from their spendthrift ways.
"It's really disgusting ... You put it up to a vote and you still have to hire someone and beg (legislators)," Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson said recently. "It's a bad deal, but there's no choice."
It's time for the Legislature to shed its paternalistic attitude. If lawmakers aren't willing to quickly expedite the cities' wishes in these cases they should change the law and eliminate the need for legislative approval.
State lawmakers should have more confidence in taxing decisions that are made at the local level. Baxter citizens knew what they were doing when they initiated a sales tax. Let them do it.
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