Schwab pledges support for local sales tax

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 2, 2002

While opposing statewide tax increases, Senate Republicans will continue to support Albert Lea’s proposal for a local sales tax, Senate Tax Committee members Grace Schwab, R-Albert Lea, and Bill Belanger, R-Bloomington, said Thursday.

&uot;It’s the issue of general fairness,&uot; said Schwab. &uot;Some communities are allowed to have a sales tax and others are not. This present system is truly not fair.&uot; Belanger, a 22-year veteran legislator, agreed with Schwab and said the impact on the local economy from the additional sales tax would be minimal.

The half-percent sales tax proposal died in the House Tax Committee in the last session, though the Senate passed it as a part of budget-balancing bill. The 10-year period tax would generate $14.5 million for lake-management projects and downtown redevelopment.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;We don’t trust local units of government,&uot; Belanger said sarcastically. Schwab said tying the hands of local government while reducing Local Government Aid does not make sense. She thinks letting the people who know local situations the best handle the decision is the more desirable way.

But the GOP legislators said they would not endorse state tax increases.

&uot;The economy is still in a downturn,&uot; Belanger said. He expressed his concern that a tax increase would hurt fixed-income people. Despite the $1.4-billion deficit the legislature will have to deal with in the next session, he said, &uot;taxes should be the last resort.&uot;

Schwab believes the state can overcome the financial woes by further cutting spending. &uot;We have to reduce waste and redundancy,&uot; she said, showing a graph that indicates the rapid expansion of state budget over the past years. &uot;That’s what families do at home.&uot;

The budget fix in the last session eliminated mostly one-time spending, according to Schwab. Schwab proposed the legislators to review state programs comprehensively and reprioritize them. But there will be no easy solutions, she said.