Washington County becomes fifth and final to raise sales taxby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
After hearing for hours from dozens of citizens at a public hearing Tuesday night, Washington County commissioners voted 3-2 to raise the sales tax a quarter percent to pay for transit.
St. Paul, Minn. — Washington County board chairman Dennis Hegberg said most of the 60 or 70 citizens who spoke were against the tax. But he and two other commissioners decided to support it.
"We came to the same conclusion, the three of us, I guess, for various reasons," said Hegberg. "But I think we all felt it was for the better interest of the county and the community at large."
Gary Kriesel, one of the two commissioners to vote 'no,' points out that counties can raise the tax any time, so he said there's no rush.
"My vote last night wasn't for or against transit," Kriesel said. "It's to do the homework, do the due diligence. For the life of me I can't figure out why it was necessary to vote for it last night."
Counties had to approve the tax by April 1 if they wanted to start levying the tax on July 1. Counties that approve the tax after that date have to wait until the next quarter to start collecting.
The tax is expected to generate close to $100 million a year in the five counties that levy it.
The transit tax was included in the transportation bill that recently became law. That bill allowed seven metro counties to raise their sales tax by a quarter-cent.
The five county boards that approved the tax are Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, Dakota and Washington. Two counties have rejected the tax increase: Carver and Scott.
The five counties will put their money into one pot, and a new board will be created to decide how to spend it. Five cents out of every $20 spent in the participating counties will go into the fund.
- Morning Edition, 04/02/2008, 7:45 a.m.