House File 2285 was kicked around by the Legislature for nearly a year before passing last this winter. And now there’s a controversy slowly building around it.
The bill proposes to raise the state’s sales tax by 3/8 of 1 percent over the next 25 years but must first pass muster with voters on a ballot initiative come Nov. 4. Sounds like pennies to you and me, but of course it adds up, and advocates and critics are preparing for a little war.
A group called Vote Yes Minnesota, which claims a coalition of some 200 environmental and outdoors groups, is pushing for passage.
(The revenue would be split three ways, with 66 percent of it going toward protection and restoration of wildlife and lakes, rivers and streams, 14.25 percent for state parks and trails and 19.75 percent for “the arts and cultural purposes,” according to a House Research Summary.)
On the other side, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and its president, Phil Krinkie, are preparing a counter-offensive. And, according to a missive from the league, former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams has joined the fight.
Grams is the chairman of the No Constitutional Tax Increase campaign, “which opposes the $11 billion tax increase,” the media release notes.
It’s not clear, however, where the $11 billion figure is coming from. By most estimates, the increase would raise $275 million to $300 million annually, for 25 years. Even on the high-end, by this journalist’s fuzzy math, that’s $7.5 billion.
But anyway, here’s Grams’ quote: “While preserving our natural resources is a good cause, this is a misguided effort at achieving appropriate environmental spending while providing unnecessary state funding for arts and cultural heritage projects,” Grams said. “This ballot initiative abuses the state constitution by creating a multi-billion-dollar tax increase in constitutional form.”