St. Paul sales tax has residents split, other communities weigh issues before election

On election eve in our state’s capitol city, one question on Tuesday’s ballot may be drawing more attention than the rest.

This November, the City of St. Paul is asking residents to vote for or against a sales tax increase to fund about $1 billion dollars in road repairs and park maintenance, over a 20-year tax period.

The one percentage point increase would give St. Paul the state’s highest sales tax rate.

"Have you driven on St. Paul roads? It’s horrible," Sharon Trudell told FOX 9. "So if that 1% tax rate goes to fixing the roads, yes."

However, the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce opposes the idea. Business owners also fear a tax hike could push their customers to neighboring communities with lower taxes.

"If I’m coming down here to spend $100 at a restaurant, 1% is $1. That’s not going to keep me away," Trudell says.

Opponents say city infrastructure improvements should come from the city’s existing budget. 

"I think they should be able to fix the roads with the money that’s already being taxed," Melvyna Gaynor told FOX 9.

St. Paul is far from the only city with hard decisions to make on Tuesday. 

In Beltrami County, a sales tax hike could pay for a new county jail; in Bloomington, a tax hike could pay for a community health and wellness center; and in Golden Valley, taxes may finance a new public works building and police/fire headquarters. 

"I don’t think they should increase the sales tax. I think they should leave poor people alone," Gaynor said.

Many of the cities pushing for sales tax hikes say if Tuesday’s ballot measures fail, the towns will instead use property tax hikes to finance new construction.