Reject Minnesota street improvement fee

  • Article by: KAYE RAKOW and TODD LILJENQUIST
  • Updated: April 13, 2013 - 4:55 PM
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Workers in Burnsville fill potholes on April 1, 2013.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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Last fall, many legislators won elections with promises of lower property taxes, yet now a proposal that would have the opposite effect is headed for passage.

Authority for municipal street-improvement fees is a concept first promoted by cities almost 15 years ago, and it has not improved with age. It has been rejected, on a bipartisan basis, each of the six times it has been introduced over the last decade.

It would allow city government to impose a separate fee — in addition to existing property taxes — to fund a special account for street improvements.

It could be imposed without voter approval, without a cap or any of the current protections afforded property owners by special-assessment law.

Supporters of the idea are incredulous that the broad coalition of opponents to this legislation would not defer to the spending wishes of their city officials who want this new taxing authority.

But opponents see this for what it is: an unchecked new tax on property — for homeowners and businesses, to be sure, but also expanding to churches, nonprofits and schools.

It is disingenuous for legislators to give city governments the ability to tax property in this manner, then try to tell constituents that they’re for property tax relief. The street-improvement fee legislation is nothing more than an end run around traditional taxing methods.

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Kaye Rakow and Todd Liljenquist represent the Coalition Against Municipal Street Improvement Fees.

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