Anoka County Board revokes wheelage tax

By Peter Bodley
July 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Anoka County residents won’t have to pay a wheelage tax effective Jan. 1, 2014.

The Anoka County Board on a 5-2 vote July 25 revoked the $5 wheelage tax, which a prior county board had voted had put in place in June 2006.

The $5 has been collected from motorists as part of the annual fee paid they pay when they purchase license plate tabs for their vehicles each year.

The tax money has been used, some $1.4 million a year, specifically for projects on the county’s road and bridge system.

Back in 2006, the Minnesota Legislature allowed metro area counties to impose the $5 wheelage tax if they wished.

What prompted the current Anoka County Board to reconsider the wheelage tax was new legislation passed by the 2013 Minnesota Legislature and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

The Legislature not only extended the wheelage tax option to counties outside the metro area, but increased the tax to $10 per year effective Jan. 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2017.

But there was no provision in the law to allow counties to retain the existing $5 a year tax.

If the county board had taken no action to revoke wheelage tax by Aug. 1, then it would automatically increase to $10 per vehicle per year come Jan. 1, 2014.

The county board action came on a recommendation from its Public Works Committee. Commissioners Carol LeDoux and Jim Kordiak voted no.

According to LeDoux, she struggled with this issue, but believes the wheelage tax serves the public good by providing funds for county road and bridge funds.

The tax amounts to 7 cents a day and returns $1.4 million a year to the county road and bridge system, LeDoux said.

While the county board has made great efficiencies in the past three years, the Legislature continues to pass laws that have “unintended consequences” on the county and its cities, she said.

“We had no plans to change it if the tax had remained at $5,” LeDoux said.

If the $10 wheelage tax was not in place, then the state gas tax would need to be raised 14 cents a gallon to compensate, she said.

Eliminating the wheelage tax will “saddle the property taxpayer” with paying more, LeDoux said.

According to Kordiak, the county board in 2006 “showed wisdom” and was a leader in using the wheelage tax provision in state law to provide more money for road and bridge projects.

He voted for it then and he supported the increase to $10, Kordiak said.

“The wheelage tax is a user fee on people who drive on the roads, like tolls,” he said.

The property tax is more regressive than the wheelage tax, he said.

Revoking the wheelage tax is a “curious step” for the county board to take and a “wrong-headed direction,” Kordiak said.

A dozen counties have opted to impose the wheelage tax under the new law, including two in the metro area that previously did not have the wheelage tax, he said.

According to County Commissioner Matt Look, anytime the county board has the opportunity to reduce a tax, he will support it.

The state has given the county no choice in whether it wanted to increase the tax from $5 to $10, Look said.

And in Look’s view, everyone uses roads in one way or another and should share in the cost, he said.

Revoking the wheelage tax is a “good move,” Look said.

County Commissioner Robyn West agreed with Look. “Everyone uses the roads whether they drive or not and they need the services that roads provide,” she said.

According to West, the state law increase of the wheelage tax without the county’s ability to keep it at the present $5 takes away from local control.

County Commissioner Scott Schulte also supported the wheelage tax revocation, he said.

The efficiencies that the county board and county staff have put in place over the past two years will mean that the loss of the wheelage tax income will not have a negative impact on the county’s road and bridge system, nor on the property tax levy, Schulte said.

County Commissioner Julie Braastad described the revocation of the wheelage tax as “responsible government.”

According to Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah, the Legislature has imposed this wheelage tax increase on counties because of issues with the state’s computer system handling the $5 charge, Sivarajah said.

“It’s either zero or $10, but I have no great faith that the state will solve the problem and by 2018, the wheelage tax will be increased to $20,” she said.

Revoking the wheelage tax is the responsible and right thing for the county board to do, Sivarajah said.

The county has been able to successfully leverage money from state and federal sources for its road and bridge projects, she said.

Indeed, for every dollar the county spends on roads and bridges, it receives $3 from other sources, Sivarajah said.

The wheelage tax is also very regressive because seniors on fixed incomes and those people who are less well off have to pay the same amount each year as the wealthy, she said.

“By revoking the wheelage tax, the county board will be a leader,” Sivarajah said.

 

Peter Bodley is at
peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

Endorsements

I am honored to have received the following endorsements:

  • Voices of Conservative Women
  • Mike Van Kirk – Mayor – City of Ham Lake
  • Gary Kirkeide – Council Member – City of Ham Lake
  • Tom Johnson – Council Member – City of Ham Lake
  • Jim Doyle – Council Member – City of Ham Lake
  • Jolynn Erikson – Ham Lake Area Chamber of Commerce President

Communication Is Vital

I keep hearing over and over from frustrated county employees that feel that my opponent has not been a good communicator with them.  From my experience on the Ham Lake City Council I know firsthand how important it is to be able to have good communication with the employees. Communication is one vital tool that can make an organization strong or, if not utilized, tear it down. Improving communication between departments and individuals is a daily job, as this skill must be practiced and used by all levels of management in all situations to have best practices trickle down so every employee communicates comfortably and confidently. One of the best ways to show that an organization is serious about communication is to implement or encourage employees to utilize an open-door policy. When there is an issue or a concern, employees should feel comfortable going to county commissioner to discuss their concerns. I will make it a priority to get to know the staff and their concerns!

Say No to Northstar!

My top priorities will be to stop wasting resources on losing efforts and provide effective and efficient government services.

It is one thing to say that you are fiscally conservative but actions speak louder than words. I feel strongly that investing additional money in the Northstar Commuter Rail – Ramsey station was very irresponsible. With the Elk River and the Anoka stations so close, the actual ridership being way below the estimated and the subsidy of each rider being so high, there was nothing fiscally responsible about that decision. The additional 13+ million that was spent could have been better spent!

Secondly, a combination of new budgeting practices, spending reductions, consolidation and other restructuring will be needed to make Anoka County viable into the future The county board must be committed to maximizing taxpayer value by delivering only necessary government services in the most cost-effective and sustainable manner possible.

Political Philosophy

Although the county commissioner position is a non-partisan position, my political philosophy is as follows:

  • Insists on a government that reflects wise budgeting and fiscal responsibility, not spending money it does not have.
  • Believes that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are God-given rights for every individual (not privileges dispensed by government) and respects the rights of others.
  • Encourages individual effort and entrepreneurial success.
  • Protects the rights of personal property.
  • Insists on constitutionally limited government in both size and authority.
  • Insists on limited and fair taxation.
  • I believe in a government by, for, and of the people.
  • I believe that government and its leader should live by the same rules as ordinary citizens.
  • Sees a need for the end of career politicians.

New Voice – Fresh Ideas – Commonsense Leadership

 

Elect Julie Braastad

County Commissioner

Vote Tuesday August 14th Primary

While serving on the Ham Lake City Council I have fought against wasteful spending and pushed for responsible but limited government.  This has kept Ham Lake’s taxes the lowest in Anoka County.  I want to bring my commonsense leadership to the county board. I will find better, more cost effective ways to furnish essential services and will work to create permanent jobs. I believe that government needs to live within its means just like families have to do.  I am asking for your vote in the primary. I have three opponents and only the top two vote getters will move on to the general election in November. If you are unable to vote on August 14th you can go to city hall and cast your absentee ballot now. To see where you should vote you can find your voting location at http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/  You can follow my campaign at www.juliebraastad.com and on Facebook – Julie Braastad for Anoka County Commissioner.

New Voice – Fresh Ideas – Commonsense Leadership

Voices of Conservative Women Endorses Julie Braastad

VOICES of Conservative Women PAC
voicespac@voicesofconservativewomen.org
VOICESPAC 2012 Minnesota Endorsements
1st Round of Endorsements Announced

 
(Minnesota – July 9, 2012) – VOICES of Conservative Women State PAC (VOICESPAC) announces their 1st round of endorsements in the 2012 election cycle.

Jennifer DeJournett, President of VOICES of Conservative Women and Exec. Director of VOICESPAC said “VOICESPAC believes the following candidates demonstrate dedication, well-rounded experience and a strong commitment to their communities. Their clear focus on reforming government, promoting jobs, and improving the economy is what Minnesotans need in their elected leaders at all levels of government. Therefore, we enthusiastically endorse the following women candidates in 2012 and we will support their campaigns,” continued DeJournett.

VOICES of Conservative Women (VOICES) was formed in late 2009 to help train and support the next generation of women leaders and/or candidates at all levels of government who support fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free market principles. VOICES’s political fund (VOICESPAC) stands with and elects common sense pocket book women leaders who support our ideals.

If you know of a great candidate or are running in 2012 and would like to be considered for endorsement by VOICESPAC, email voicespac@voicesofconservativewomen.org or call 612-460-1870 for additional information. VOICESPAC endorses and supports candidates at ALL levels of government.

Minnesota Legislative Candidates *

• Michelle Benson, MN State Senate (31), incumbent
• Karin Housley, MN State Senate (39), candidate
• April King, MN State Senate (42), candidate
• Julianne Ortman, MN State Senate (47), incumbent

• Diane Anderson, MN State Representative (51A), incumbent
• Mandy Benz, MN State Representative (37A), candidate
• Pam Cunningham, MN State Representative (53A), candidate
• Mary Franson, MN State Representative (8B), incumbent
• Terry Jacobson, MN State Representative (49B), candidate
• Andrea Kieffer, MN State Representative (53B), incumbent
• Kathy Lohmer, MN State Representative (39B), incumbent
• Pam Myhra, MN State Representative (56A), incumbent
• Joyce Peppin, MN State Representative (34A), incumbent
• Roz Peterson, MN State Representative (56B), candidate
• Cindy Pugh, MN State Representative (33B), candidate
• Stacey Stout, MN State Representative (43A), candidate
• Peggy Scott, MN State Representative (35A), incumbent
• Anna Wills, MN State Representative (57B), incumbent

*Additional MN Representative and MN Senate candidates are being reviewed. 
  For the most current list visit our website, click here.

Minnesota Local Candidates *

Julie Braastad, Anoka County Commissioner, candidate
• Penny Steele, Three Rivers Park Commissioner, candidate

*Additional local candidates are being reviewed are being reviewed.
  For the most current list visit our website, click here.

ERHART’S FOLLY CONTINUES TO FALTER

One of the reasons I decided to run for the county commissioner position was because of the decision the current county board made to invest over 13 million dollars in to a rail station in the city of Ramsey for the North Star Commuter Rail.  This is a perfect example of wasting resources on losing efforts!!  The following article was written by the Anoka County Watchdog.
ERHART’S FOLLY CONTINUES TO FALTER
“Northstar: It just makes sense!” “It’s equivalent to a 1 and ½ lanes of traffic on Highway 10.” “It will bring jobs and economic development to Anoka County.” “If we don’t waste this money, someone else will.” “We need something cool and rad up here on this end of town.” “Northstar will put Anoka County on the map.”
These just a sampling of the completely bunk statements we heard during the collective mania that gripped Anoka County when Dan Erhart and company sold their snake oil to a gullible public that wanted to believe that somehow a commuter train would do all those neat things for taxpayers.
None of it turned out to be true. Well, at least there is a kernel of truth regarding the last claim. Northstar has certainly put Anoka County on the map – as a laughingstock for engaging in the folly of commuter rail.
Erhart’s Folly is once again in the news. And once again, the news isn’t good, which is par for the course for Northstar. It’s about time the media start attaching adjectives to Northstar such as “troubled” and “beleaguered.”
The latest for this troubled (so how that works?) rail scam is the continued failure to meet ridership projections.
Since the first choo choo ran down those tracks off Highway 10, the expected riders have failed to show up.
The excuses were legion. “Gas prices are low.” “The economy is bad.” “The economy is good.” “People don’t know about commuter rail.” “The line needs to go to Saint Cloud.”
They could have made t-shirts.
And let’s put aside a growing myth and one that is propagated by lazy media types. There is a growing urban legend that the line was cut from Rice (not Saint Cloud) down to Big Lake because there wasn’t enough money or because conservative politicians sabotaged the project.
The line was cut simply because it didn’t meet the federal government’s own weak cost-benefit metrics.
Surprisingly, running commuter rail to a small regional center and then up to a cow hamlet in Jim Oberstar’s district lead to a low cost-benefit analysis. Who would have thought?
Yes, Northstar couldn’t hurdle the midget’s bar and satisfy a government that builds bridges to nowhere that this was a really sweet project if it ran to Rice, population 1,460. Did we mention Rice is in the 8th Congressional District?
The latest trick to “stimulate” Northstar ridership is a fare cut. Never mind that every ride on the line is already subsidized to the hilt.
News reports indicate that the Metropolitan Council will soon consider fare cuts to coax riders to get on Erhart’s Folly.
Hell, the riders are already so heavily subsidized, why not go full Monty and just make it all free?
That way we can be honest in admitting that Northstar is a failure and that offering free rides is really what the Utopians want in mass transit anyway.
Want proof? The proof is that they never cared about the outrageous cost to build and operate the line and the fact that increasing the massive subsidy is just fine by them.
And if free rides are offered, maybe we can stop throwing money down the rat hole to bail out this white elephant.
We can stop doing things like throwing millions into a station stop in Ramsey, which won’t do squat to build riders, even though the government stopped running a popular and inexpensive bus service from the city with the intent to force people on to the train.
With stations in Elk River and Anoka, there was no need to build yet another station in between the two.
Unless, of course, one considers the other reason (real?) for constructing a stop in Ramsey. The other reason is to bail out another government mega-project failure, the Town Center project.
So here we have the spectacle of a boondoggle rail station built in hopes of bailing out a boondoggle commuter rail line and a boondoggle planned downtown concept.
Northstar is officially a joke and so is Dan Erhart.
Okay, so the county board is crowing about saving $50 grand by withdrawing from the NLX project.
Yes, the Watchdog agrees that rail has yet to prove itself and that roads and bridges are a priority.
But we thinks some doth celebrate too much when there is a ticker tape parade to celebrate a canceled membership for a rail line that is years from anything.
Again, the NLX pull out is okay by us, but what about Northstar?
We saved a few thousand on NLX.
What about the millions being spent on a Ramsey station?
What about the millions being collected by the county’s sales tax increase for transportation?
What about the “wheelage tax” still being collected?
The fact is that the county is still taxing and spending millions on a utopian vision for a mass transit “build out” across the Metro.
If the board is going to get all big balls about transit and crow about things like NLX, then why not get serious and make some meaningful changes, like eliminate the wheelage tax and eliminate the sales tax increase for transit?
It will be interesting over the course of the summer and fall to see where the county commissioner candidates are on these issues.
Poker is the name of the game here. If you raise an NLX membership, you may just get raised a wheelage tax or even a sales tax.
When you get pushed “all in”, do you muck your cards or call the “all in” bet?

The Race Is On!

I am pleased to announce that after much consideration, I have decided to run for the Anoka County Commissioner position representing District 2. You may recognize my name because I am currently serving my second term on the Ham Lake City Council.  Ham Lake has been the leader in Anoka County in maintaining low taxes and setting precedence for limited government. It has been important to me to maintain Ham Lake’s low tax levels while still providing residents with the necessary essential services. This has come about through good planning and thinking outside of the box. I want to bring my tax reducing ideas and innovative thinking to the county level. In today’s economy, we cannot operate government as usual. Over the past year, I believe that the county board has been moving in the right direction but there is still much more work to be done. I believe that Anoka County needs to have a fiscally responsible budget. This can be achieved by prioritizing spending and without raising taxes. It is all about taking an honest look at the county’s needs versus its wants.  It is possible to cut spending without cutting services. I believe in and have a passion for limited government. Bigger government is not better government. It is imperative that every program and every department within the county be operated in the most efficient manner possible. The county can focus on economic development by easing the tax burdens on businesses.  Businesses need the freedom to be able to operate without being overly taxed. When this happens they will be able to expand and will also create new ventures thereby creating new and higher paying jobs. I really wish it would not have been the position of the current board to sink more money into the Northstar Commuter Rail. It doesn’t make sense to me to continue to invest in a losing situation.

I currently serve as the Ham Lake Fire Department liaison, am on the Executive Board of the North Metro Telecommunications Commission and am the Sr. Vice President of the Don Hansen VFW – Ladies Auxiliary. I have been an active member of the Ham Lake Area Chamber of Commerce for the last 15 years and am one of the organizers of the Toys for Troops drive.

You’ll find I’m an excellent listener, a hard worker and a proven conservative leader. I hope I will earn your vote for county commissioner. Follow my campaign at www.juliebraastad.com and on  Julie Braastad for Anoka County Commissioner.