Marshall makes case for sales tax extension

Byrnes speaks to lawmakers; MN Rep. Swedzinski makes revenue-sharing proposal

MARSHALL — Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes made the case for extending the city’s local sales tax before Minnesota lawmakers on Wednesday.

If both the Legislature and Marshall voters approve, the sales tax revenue would allow the city to make much-needed updates to the Marshall Aquatic Center, Byrnes said.

However, Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said he thought surrounding communities affected by local sales taxes also needed a voice in that decision. At a Minnesota House property tax committee hearing, Swedzinski proposed an amendment to Marshall’s request that would share the sales tax revenue with other area cities.

After discussion with the committee, Swedzinski withdrew the amendment. But, he said, “I still support it, and I wish it would be part of the conversation.”

The hearing with the tax committee was part of the process for Marshall to put the sales tax extension before voters. The proposal, which would extend Marshall’s current 0.5% local sales tax for 15 years, would be used to pay for a new Aquatic Center, Byrnes said.

The city’s proposal was simplified from an earlier version, that would have also included an indoor recreation center in Marshall.

“The actual bill is very straightforward,” Byrnes said.

The city will need to have legislative approval before it can put a ballot question to voters, Byrnes said.

Last fall, a survey of more than 300 Marshall voters showed strong support for using local sales tax to pay for parks and recreation projects, instead of increasing property taxes.

The sales tax was originally approved by Marshall residents in 2012, to help pay for expansions at the MERIT Center and construction of the Red Baron Arena and Expo.

Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, and Swedzinski are bringing Marshall’s request to the Minnesota Senate and House.

However, Swedzinski also offered an amendment that would create an economic development zone within a roughly 35-mile radius of Marshall, and allow the sales tax revenue to be shared with area cities.

“One of the unique things about local-option sales tax is that it captures revenue from outside the city,” Swedzinski said.

He said he thought area cities should have a voice in local sales tax issues, or share in the revenue raised by them.

There is a precedent for revenue sharing for local sales tax in Minnesota, Swedzinski said. There’s a similar arrangement with the city of Rochester and surrounding communities, he said.

However, after discussion with the committee on Wednesday, Swedzinski said he pulled his proposed amendment.

In order for the amendment to get legislative approval, “It would have had to go on to a couple of other committees,” he said.

However, Swedzinski said he still thought legislators need to start conversations on how to approach revenue sharing for local-option sales taxes in the future.

“We need to have these conversations in the open,” he said.

Byrnes said it was Swedzinski’s choice to withdraw the amendment. That action happened before Byrnes spoke to the committee on Wednesday, and he said he wasn’t asked about it by legislators.

But Byrnes and other Marshall City Council members did voice concerns about the proposal at their regular meeting Tuesday night.

Council members said the revenue-sharing proposal could potentially hurt the chances of the Legislature approving the sales tax vote, because there weren’t specified projects that the shared revenue would go to. Byrnes said the amendment would also have made for a more complicated and confusing ballot question for Marshall voters.


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