Minneapolis Mayor R.T.Rybak was talking stadium at the governor''s office Thursday. But it occurred to me that one piece of his argument has wider application -- to local government aid (LGA).
Rybak was noting that the deal struck by Gov. Mark Dayton, the Minnesota Vikings and legislative sponsors of a new stadium bill would, in essence, split the existing half-cent Minneapolis convention center sales tax. A portion of it would be "reclaimed" by the state, from whose authority it initially sprang, for stadium debt service. That maneuver could help skirt the Minneapolis charter requirement of spending no more than $10 million of city money on a sports facility without voter permission via a referendum.
The remainder of the convention center sales tax would be the city's to use for whatever purpose it chooses, Rybak said. "This would allow a local unit of government more control over sales taxes collected in the city."
That would make it a major change in more than 40 years of state insistence that local governments could only collect sales taxes with the Legislature's permission and for Legislature-dictated purposes. (Duluth has been the one exception to that rule, allowed to keep a local sales tax it already had when the rule went into force.)
Local control over some portion of a locale's sales tax receipts is precisely what some municipal officials around the state have been seeking as LGA has eroded in the past decade.. Those from cities with strong retail sectors chafe at generating robust sales tax proceeds for the state and getting depleted LGA checks in return.
If the Minneapolis City Council gets its hands on even a small fraction of the convention center tax to use at will, other cities are bound to notice. So will the Republican legislators who have wanted for years to shift LGA away from the state's biggest cities and reserve it for strugging cities in Greater Minnesota -- or phase it out entirely.