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County Board votes against local sales tax

Proposal sought funds for Highway 14 improvements

October 24, 2012
By Fritz Busch - Staff Writer , The Journal

NEW ULM - By a 3-2 vote Tuesday with commissioners Richard Seeboth and Scott Windschitl dissenting, the Brown County board disapproved of a local sales tax for transportation funding.

Commissioners Jim Berg and Dennis Potter said they preferred a user tax like the gas tax to fund highway projects.

Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens said he didn't think the U.S. Highway 14 four-lane expansion from New Ulm to Nicollet would happen within 20 years "without doing something special." He said the Highway 14 Nicollet to North Mankato four-lane project could happen by 2018.

Windschitl said he'd prefer a gas tax adjustment.

Seeboth said Brown County was the "potential best winner in the scenario" of a local sales tax for transportation funding by adding a half-cent in Brown, Blue Earth, Dodge, Nicollet, Olmsted, Steele and Waseca counties.

Berg called the tax proposals "a carrot to get the (highway) project done."

Considered by the Governor's Transportation Finance Advisory Committee (TFAC), concepts include individual counties enacting sales taxes without a voter referendum and groups of counties creating a joint powers agreement to enact a local sales tax to fund or help fund specific highway projects without a voter referendum.

In an Oct. 16 email to county members of the Highway 14 Partnership, Flaherty & Hood, P.A. Lobbyist/Communications Director Amanda Duerr of St. Paul said TFAC conversations on the issue are "very preliminary and broad."

Approximate annual revenue generated by participating counties with a half-cent sales tax was Blue Earth, $6.1 million; Brown, $1.3 million; Dodge, $400,000; Nicollet, $1 million; Olmsted $9.6 million; Steele, $2.4 million; and Waseca $500,000 for a total of $21.3 million a year,

Commissioners unanimously approved an addendum to a current waiver contract with Enterprise North to add approved rates for a new Enterprise Front Street site for clients with a diagnosis of developmental disabilities, autism, or mental health that could not be served or minimally served in current day programs.

The board also approved Public Health update that included radon education and outreach with free test kits to be distributed in January 2013.

The update also included information on whooping cough cases in Minnesota. There have been 3,800 confirmed cases this year, but only one confirmed case in Brown County. Adolescents and adults are encouraged to get the vaccine Tdap to help prevent the spread of pertussis.



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