December 27, 2022
City of Saint Paul Proposes 1% Sales Tax for Generational Investments for Streets and Parks
Proposed one-percent local sales tax estimated to generate nearly a billion dollars over the next two decades to support street and park investments in Minnesota’s Capital City
SAINT PAUL, MN - Today, Mayor Carter announced a proposed one-percent increase in local sales tax to invest in necessary, long-overdue improvements to Saint Paul streets and aging parks facilities.
“A one-cent sales tax would provide a billion dollars to revitalize our City’s streets and parks, while sharing the cost among the many residents, businesses, commuters, and visitors who benefit from them every day,” said Mayor Carter.
“A penny sales tax would help fund necessary investment in Saint Paul’s streets and parks,” said Saint Paul City Council President Amy Brendmoen. “It is one important part of a full funding package that the legislature can support to make our Capital City truly shine.”
ABOUT THE 1% LOCAL SALES TAX
The estimated $984 million in revenue generated over 20 years by the proposed one-percent sales tax increase would fund historic investments in regionally significant transportation infrastructure and the City’s nationally recognized parks and recreation facilities, significantly improving the safety of everyone living, working, and enjoying Saint Paul, while supporting the long-term economic vitality of Minnesota.
According to Minnesota Statute 279A.99, a general sales tax would be authorized if permitted by special law of the Minnesota Legislature. Cities must first pass a resolution authorizing a local sales tax before obtaining Legislative approval. Cities must then advance a detailed ballot question on a general election ballot for local voter approval.
“We’re used to the cold weather, but that doesn’t mean we should be used to the damage it can cause to our roads over time,” said Ward 1 City Councilmember Russel Balenger. “It’s time we take bold action to ensure the safety and longevity of our Minnesota roads.”
"We're proud to host numerous civic, entertainment, athletic, cultural, and historical attractions that draw people in from the entire region. A sales tax will allow all those who enjoy our streets and parks to help us maintain them," said Ward 2 City Councilmember Rebecca Noecker.
“Saint Paul is vital to the region and to Minnesota. This investment infrastructure is critical to ensuring that we can commute to work, connect to nature, and ready ourselves for our future,” said Ward 3 City Councilmember Chris Tolbert.
“This increase of pennies in the sales tax stands to bring forth millions in needed annual revenue for our City – funds that are necessary to help correct a chronic historic underfunding of basic infrastructure,” said Ward 4 City Councilmember Mitra Jalali. “These costs right now are purely shouldered by our residents. This measure will help ensure that everyone across the state using Saint Paul roads contributes to the costs of maintaining safer streets in our Capital City. With these funds, we are also better positioned to embrace the kind of large-scale reimagining of our streets network that allows us to fully act on the climate crisis through enhanced pedestrian and bike infrastructure and better transit connections. I look forward to this conversation with our community.”
“This investment would bridge a critical revenue gap for fixing our streets and parks while improving the lives and livelihood for all who live, work, and play in the City of Saint Paul,” said Ward 6 City Councilmember Nelsie Yang. “I am proud to support this proposal which will yield great benefits and progress for everyone.”
The Saint Paul City Council is expected to review the proposed resolution at its regular meeting Wednesday, January 4, 2023. If passed, the City will seek Legislative approval prior to it being presented to Saint Paul voters as a ballot measure.
A GENERATIONAL INVESTMENT
As Minnesota’s Capital City, Saint Paul is home to more than 300,000 residents, several Fortune 500 companies, and employers of all sectors. World-class entertainment venues, historical landmarks, and popular dining options continue to make Saint Paul a destination hub for millions of visitors each year.
The City estimates that a local sales tax increase of one percent over a 20-year period would generate the estimated $984 million needed to fund the following projects:
REBUILDING AND IMPROVING OUR ROADS – $738 million
An investment in Saint Paul streets strengthens the regional economy by benefiting business owners, residents, and every commuter and visitor who travels in, out, and through Saint Paul.
A well-connected, safe, and efficient regional transportation infrastructure is critical to the economic vitality of Minnesota’s Capital City and the entire state. Saint Paul’s arterial and collector roadways and trail systems provide regional and national multi-modal connections that are essential for all different modes of transportation, including commercial freight, mass transit, personal vehicles, non-motorized vehicles, and pedestrians. Approximately 200 miles of City-owned arterial streets connect users to the regional, state, and federal highway systems.
According to a 2019 Pavement Condition Index (PCI) report conducted by the Saint Paul Department of Public Works, the current funding levels will not be able to maintain the existing level of road conditions throughout the City. Public Works re-analyzed the pavement network in 2022 and estimated that without additional funding, the condition of the City-owned arterial and collector network will drop to 29 (“very poor” condition), from the current condition rating of 49 (“fair to poor” condition), in the next 20 years.
The sales tax revenue dedicated to complete streets would allow for the much-needed reconstruction and regular rehabilitation of Saint Paul’s arterial and collector street system. With it, the City could attain an average PCI of 70 (“satisfactory” condition) over the next 20 years – an industry standard that governmental agencies strive to achieve.
REINVESTING IN OUR NATIONALLY ACCLAIMED PARKS AND RECREATION FACILITIES – $246 million
Saint Paul has the No. 2 Parks and Recreation system in the nation, according to Trust for Public Land. Each year, the nationally recognized parks and trails attract more than 15 million visitors and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the country, however, the facilities are aging. The average building is approaching 40 years of age. This investment would revitalize aging parks infrastructure with a focus on the worst-condition parks, community centers, trails, connections, and athletic facilities.
Funding would also provide the opportunity to connect the region with natural resources in new and exciting ways. A brand new modern, multi-purpose community center on the East Side would serve a densely populated area and attract visitors from surrounding suburban cities. A mixed-use, river-focused space and National Park Service headquarters at Crosby Farm Regional Park, and a 1.5-mile River Balcony promenade along the downtown bluff will transform urban infrastructure into a public space that connects parks and civic landmarks. These innovative projects will spur new development along Kellogg Boulevard.
"I have always been committed to ensuring that our community has the resources it needs to thrive,” said Rena Moran, Ramsey County Commissioner-elect. “Investing in and improving Saint Paul's streets and parks is an essential part of this effort. A one-percent sales tax increase is a fair and necessary way to fund these important projects."
“The poor condition of many of our streets negatively impacts the mobility, safety, and access to the businesses that do so much to grow our community,” said Don Mullin, Saint Paul Building Trades. “I’m excited for our members to get to work with the huge potential of this investment.”
"We understand the importance of infrastructure in supporting the daily lives of our communities. An investment like this – directly funding street and park improvements – is a smart and necessary step towards maintaining and improving the systems that we rely on every day," said Dean Gale, Saint Paul Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 34 Business Manager.
“Investments in our physical infrastructure improve the quality of life for everyone,” Joe Fowler, LIUNA Local 563 Business Manager. “Let’s keep investing in our future.”
"As electricians, we understand the importance of maintaining and improving our infrastructure. This proposed investment for street and park improvements is a small price to pay for the long-term benefits it will bring to our community,” said Jamie McNamara, IBEW 110 Business Manager. “Safe and well-maintained roads and parks not only benefit those who use them, but also provide work for skilled tradespeople like ourselves. Investing in our infrastructure is an investment in our community and our future."
“Saint Paul cannot sustain our roads without a major investment,” said Jason George, Business Manager, IUOE Local 49. “This is an equitable fix that will allow all those who enjoy the City to take part in sustaining its future.”
“Minnesota’s Capital City prides itself on the world-class entertainment venues,” said Wade Luneburg, Unite Here Local 17 Recording Secretary, representing workers at Saint Paul hotels and venues. “A one-percent sales tax is an equitable solution to ensuring visitors can contribute to the City’s continued growth.”
"Our members know firsthand the value of maintaining and improving our infrastructure. This proposal for street and park improvements is a small price to pay for the long-term benefits it will bring to our community,” said Barry Davies, Ironworkers Local 512 Business Manager. “Strong and well-maintained streets and parks not only enhance the beauty of our neighborhoods, but they also create safer environments for families and businesses. This is the kind of measure that will create jobs and opportunities for workers while also benefiting residents and visitors."
"We know firsthand the importance of well-maintained streets and parks. Not only do these improvements enhance the beauty and livability of our communities, they also create jobs for skilled tradespeople like us,” said Tony McGarvey, IUPAT District Council 82 Director of Government Affairs. “That's why we support this proposal for street and park improvements. By making this small investment in Saint Paul’s infrastructure, we can create economic opportunity, improve the quality of life for residents and for visitors while leaving a lasting legacy for future generations."
“Well-maintained parks, rec centers and streets are essential for every resident to pursue wellness, life-long learning and personal growth. Strong parks and safe roads in every neighborhood increase equity for all families,” said Michael-jon Pease of the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy. “We can attest to the pressing need for new revenue to support the critical infrastructure of our parks and streets. The average age of our park facilities is nearly 40 years old. Our small downtown parks host nearly six million visitors annually, which is a huge burden on infrastructure and the environment. Current park resources only allow for replacing a couple of sport courts and playgrounds every year, which keeps our system falling behind on deferred maintenance. The time has come for big thinking about how park, recreation, and streets in the Capital City are funded.”
"Como Friends supports sustainable funding for the care, repair and maintenance of the parks system and recreation facilities in Saint Paul. Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is open 365 days a year and is the most visited destination in Saint Paul with 2 million annual visitors. For over 125 years, Minnesotans from throughout the state have visited the zoo and conservatory free of charge,” said Jackie Sticha, Como Friends President. “Como is an economic engine that generates $162.7 million in economic impact each year. Sustainable funding for Como is an investment in future economic impact, will provide a quality experience for all visitors, and ensures a stable future where generations of Minnesotans can engage with and learn about nature."
"Preserving and enhancing our natural surroundings is critical, creating and maintaining spaces that are aesthetically pleasing, emotionally enriching, and welcoming to all. We are interested, particularly, in park improvements on the City's east side and in downtown Saint Paul, on essential maintenance of trees that have been increasingly taxed by drought and climate change, and on combating the growing problem of trash in our parks,” said Amy Gage, Friends of the Parks and Trails of St. Paul and Ramsey County Executive Director. “We are proud to support the measure's goal of creating a more livable, sustainable community for all and propose that the focus on street improvements emphasize bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian safety."