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St. Paul is voting on a sales tax increase. How do this year’s City Council candidates feel about it?

The incumbents seeking re-election support the 1% hike. The remaining candidates are split.

St. Paul City Hall and Ramsey County Courthouse, St. Paul
St. Paul City Hall and Ramsey County Courthouse, St. Paul
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan

In this fall’s election, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter hopes voters will approve a sales tax increase that would generate nearly $1 billion for road repairs and parks improvements over the next two decades.

Six of the seven current St. Paul City Council members agree with the mayor, including the three incumbents seeking another term. However, roughly half of the candidates who answered MinnPost’s election survey said they were skeptical about the benefits of the proposed 1% sales tax hike.

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In the race for the open Ward 1 seat, which covers neighborhoods extending to the west and immediately north of downtown from Frogtown to Union Park, four of the seven candidates indicated they oppose the sales tax proposal.

Omar Syed
Syed for Ward 1
Omar Syed
“I strongly believe St. Paul needs a long-term fix to its aging infrastructure,” Ward 1 candidate Omar Syed said in his response to MinnPost’s questionnaire. “At the same time, I know many Ward 1 residents are feeling the burden of being over taxed.”

He prefers lobbying for more state funding or exploring ways of expanding the city’s tax base.

Anika Bowie
Bowie for Ward 1
Anika Bowie
Candidates Anika Bowie and James Lo both said they favor the increase as a means of repairing St. Paul’s crumbling roads.

“This past winter proved that we need to work to be proactive in our handling of infrastructure,” Bowie wrote.

James Lo
Lo for Ward 1
James Lo
“While I don’t want to burden our residents with additional taxes, it is essential to consider the long-term benefits,” Lo said. “By spreading the responsibility to non-St. Paul residents who utilize our roads, we can ensure a fair and equitable funding mechanism.”

Suz Woehrle
Woehrle for Ward 1
Suz Woehrle
Suz Woehrle said she preferred exploring another means of raising the revenue, like exploring a “payment in lieu of taxes” program that would extract more revenue from the city’s tax-exempt hospitals, universities and religious institutions.

“I believe sales taxes are regressive,” Woehrle said in her survey response. “But in order to qualify for President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act matching funds we need to raise some money.”

The remaining Ward 1 candidates opposed St. Paul’s proposed tax hike. Jeff Zeitler said the funds should be “spent on needs … rather than wants.” Lucky Tiger Jack Rosenbloom said city leaders cannot “tax our way out of every situation.”

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“Raising sales taxes is a sure way to drive business out of the city and will disproportionately affect middle and low-income people,” said Yan Chen.

Below, we’ve summarized where candidates who responded to MinnPost’s candidate survey stand on the sales tax question.

To see where this year’s City Council candidates in both St. Paul and Minneapolis stand on a wide range of hot topics, check out MinnPost’s “Who’s running?” guide.

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Should St. Paul increase sales taxes to pay for road repairs?

Ward 2

  • Yes: Rebecca Noecker (incumbent)
  • No: Peter K. Butler, Bill Hosko

Ward 3

  • Yes: Saura Jost, Isaac Russell
  • No: Patty Hartmann, Troy Barksdale

Ward 4

  • Yes: Mitra Jalali (incumbent)
  • No: Robert Bushard

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Ward 5

  • Yes: Hwa Jeong Kim, Pam Tollefson* (“…if there has been a thorough analysis.”)
  • No: David Greenwood-Sánchez

Ward 6

  • Yes: Nelsie Yang (incumbent)

Ward 7

  • Yes: Cheniqua Johnson
  • No: Dino Guerin, Foua-Choua Khang, Pa Der Vang

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Sept. 26 after candidate David Greenwood-Sánchez submitted his response.

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