A measure calling for an increase in a local sales tax that helps pay for mass transit projects was tabled Tuesday by the Hennepin County Board.
Commissioners held two public hearings in recent weeks on a proposed increase in Hennepin’s transit tax from a quarter cent to a half cent. While several residents spoke in favor of it at a hearing earlier this month, four county residents spoke against the tax hike Tuesday.
The proposal was prompted by a recent move of the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) to dissolve itself. Created in 2008, CTIB consists of Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, Anoka and Washington counties, all of which levy the quarter-cent tax.
Revenue generated from the tax has been instrumental in raising nearly $1 billion for various transit projects in the Twin Cities, including the light-rail Green Line linking the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Last year Dakota County, dissatisfied with the return it was getting from the arrangement with CTIB, voted to leave the board by early 2019. At the same time, lawmakers at the State Capitol balked at funding the state’s share for the Southwest and Bottineau light-rail projects.
Faced with a funding conundrum, CTIB voted to dissolve itself and permit its individual counties to increase the transit tax to a half cent, raising more money for transit. Only Hennepin and Ramsey counties opted to do so, holding public hearings on the proposed tax hike in recent weeks.
All five CTIB counties must agree to dissolve the board by Friday. But earlier this month, Dakota County commissioners voted to stay in CTIB, claiming the county was owed $29 million — an amount other CTIB members have refused to pay.
So CTIB will continue with the five counties and the current quarter-cent sales tax. In Hennepin County, the resolution may be brought up again at a later date.
CTIB said Dakota County was owed $16.5 million rather than $29 million. Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, chairman of CTIB, said Tuesday he was “pretty disappointed” with Dakota County’s demands.
“This is a sad tale of regionalism,” he said.
Talks between Dakota County and CTIB that would have led to dissolution have been ongoing, said Mike Slavik, chairman of the Dakota County Board.
“We got close, but we didn’t get to the finish line,” he said.
Slavik added that the County Board would be open to future talks.