Solutions to vexing infrastructure problems can be a long time a coming in the political world.
Just ask proponents of the Highway 371 bypass of Brainerd, who started calling for the project in the late 1960s. After more than 30 years and a lot of state dollars that project is expected to be completed this calendar year and considerable pressure will be taken off the motor traffic routes through Brainerd on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons.
Similarly, if a regional wastewater system is truly going to serve this area someday, now is the time to start working on the project.
So, it was heartening to see representatives of Baxter, Brainerd, East Gull Lake, Lake Shore, Crow Wing County, Crow Wing Township the Thirty Lakes Watershed District and other entities gather for Thursday's meeting in Baxter. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of developing a regional wastewater system.
Reed Larson, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency regional coordinator, estimates that it takes about five years to plan and construct a wastewater treatment plant.
Considerable study needs to be done before area political entities are ready to sign on to such a massive project but it's a healthy sign that the decision to build a treatment plant or not to build one will be made on a regional basis. Anything local units of government can do to take off the parochial blinders which cause them to only focus narrowly on their own problems is commendable. Lakes, rivers and watersheds don't respect political boundaries so it's foolish for political leaders to strictly follow those lines in favor of a regional approach that will benefit all of us.
If the Twin Cities don't want to use TIF let the outstate cities have it
As they do every so often, critics of tax increment financing recently pointed to the statistic that shows that 6.2 percent of the state's tax base went to tax increment financing, a complex economic development tool that essentially allows businesses to use their property taxes to help pay for new developments.
Critics also can point to examples where a Twin Cities retail business received a TIF -- in essence, a government subsidy -- even though the business probably would have located in the Twin Cities with or without the TIF.
To those critics who use such examples to make their case for eliminating TIF, how about this for a solution: Ban TIF in Twin Cities metro area counties, and allow the rest of Minnesota to use it. Because unlike the Twin Cities, communities such as Fergus Falls need it.
The fact is, the Twin Cities has amenities Fergus Falls cannot offer, simply because of population. Eliminating TIF in the Twin Cities may provide incentive for businesses to relocate in greater Minnesota.
And unlike Fergus Falls, the Twin Cities is not in direct competition for businesses with the Dakotas, which offer lower taxes overall and fewer regulations.
Fergus Falls city officials have been prudent enough to use TIF only in cases where, had they not, a business likely would have taken their jobs elsewhere. And they also have been wise in not providing TIF to retail businesses, including Wal-Mart and Target.
While the Twin Cities has more economic development than it can handle, greater Minnesota still struggles to improve wages and attract workers. Banning TIF in the Twin Cities would provide at least a small advantage that cities such as Fergus Falls need.
--The Daily Journal of Fergus Falls
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