Marshall pleads for the extension of the sales tax | News, Sports, Jobs

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

If the Marshall Legislature and voters approve, 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 believes surrounding communities impacted by local sales taxes also need a voice in the decision. At a Minnesota House property tax committee hearing, Swedzinski proposed an amendment at Marshall’s request that would share sales tax revenue with other cities in the area.

After discussion with the committee, Swedzinski withdrew the amendment. But, he says, “I still support him and would like that to be part of the conversation.”

The hearing with the tax committee was part of the process for Marshall to bring the sales tax extension to 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, which would also have included an indoor recreation center in Marshall.

“The actual invoice is very simple”, said Byrnes.

The city will need to get legislative approval before it can ask voters a ballot question, 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 raising property taxes.

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

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

However, Swedzinski also proposed an amendment that would create an economic development zone within about 35 miles of Marshall and allow sales tax revenue to be shared with area towns.

“One of the unique features of the local option sales tax is that it captures revenue from out of town,” said Swedzinski.

He said he thinks area towns should have a say in local sales tax issues or share the revenue they generate.

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

However, after discussion with the committee on Wednesday, Swedzinski said he had withdrawn his proposed amendment.

For the amendment to gain legislative approval, “We should have moved on to a few other committees”, he said.

However, Swedzinski said he still thinks lawmakers need to start conversations about how to address revenue sharing for local option sales taxes going forward.

“We need to have these conversations out 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 was not asked about it by lawmakers.

But Byrnes and other Marshall City Council members expressed 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, as there were no specified projects to which the shared revenue would go. Byrnes said the amendment would also have created a more complicated and confusing voting question for Marshall voters.

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