Commissioners offer insight on wheelage tax
Providing safe and well-maintained roadways remains a core government function that is critical both for businesses trying to move products and for residents trying to get to jobs, shopping, medical appointments, school and other important destinations.
Whether someone drives, rides a bus or relies on the shipment of products to their home, that person needs a good road network.
Counties have an important responsibility to take care of the public assets under their jurisdiction – the quality of which can impact bond ratings as well as the economic health of the county.
Right now, all counties are grappling with the problem of how to maintain and improve aging infrastructure as revenues fail to keep up with construction costs. That’s why the Minnesota County Engineers Association supports the use of a wheelage fee for counties to help maintain county roads and bridges.
The price of materials for building highways — increased by 257 percent from 1987 to 2012, according to a MnDOT analysis. Driving those increases are the prices of asphalt, concrete and steel.
Asphalt cement for paving roads has gone from $150 per ton 10 years ago to $500 per ton today. A snowplow that cost $125,000 in 1995 is now $250,000.
While an elderly person who doesn’t own a car would not pay the wheelage tax, that person would pay the local property tax that is used to pay for roads and bridges. Using the wheelage tax provides a more targeted approach in that only those who register a vehicle in the county will be charged this fee.
In addition, the law references the requirement in the Minnesota Constitution that wheelage tax revenue be used solely for a highway purpose so the money has to be spent on the roads that car owners are using.
While the wheelage tax revenue will not meet all of the needs on the local road system, use of this option will position the county to better maintain the public infrastructure under its jurisdiction, improving safety and encouraging businesses to both locate and expand in the region. For many rural communities, a better transportation system will help keep residents and business from leaving smaller towns.
This modest annual fee will make a difference for those of us who rely on the transportation system every day.
Wheelage Tax information
• The authority for local governments to use a per vehicle wheelage tax has been around since the 1970s for counties in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. The authority to use this fee was just expanded to counties in Greater Minnesota during the 2013 Legislative Session.
• Minnesota’s Constitution requires that the proceeds from the wheelage tax be used on roads and bridges. The money can’t be used for any other purpose.
• Use of the wheelage tax can help reduce the burden on the local property tax which is the main source of revenue for county roads and bridges.
• Counties are struggling to maintain safe roadways that can handler heavier trucks and farm equipment in the face of rising material costs for highway building. The cost of asphalt, cement, steel and other inputs has risen dramatically while revenue has remained relatively flat.
• Taking care of the county transportation system is a core responsibility of county government. This is a valuable asset that needs to be maintained.
• Funding from the wheelage tax can be used on any county roadway unlike funds from the gas tax which can only be used a county state aid highways.
• Money generated in the county from the wheelage tax, stays in the county so residents directly benefit from better roads in their communities.
• Job growth and economic development depend on access to well-maintained highways while all residents need a safe transportation system. If we want our communities to remain strong and attract businesses, we need to invest in our roads and bridges.
• A $10 per vehicle annual fee translates into less than 3 cents per day for better roads.
Randy Maluchnik and Jim Ische,
Carver County Commissioners
Less government aid, focus on economy needed
To the editor:
It is time to bring up an issue that may make some uncomfortable in this world of “political correctness.” It is time to talk about the breakdown within Black America. The level of “black on black” crime seen on a daily basis is shocking. So is the high profile “black on white” crime we are now seeing. This is a national tragedy that has to stop.
When President Lyndon Johnson began the “War on Poverty” in 1964, his goal was to eliminate poverty through government aid programs. However some 49 years later we have little to show but a lot of poverty. What was meant to be temporary relief for a family in need, has become a generational way of life — and therein lies the problem.
I believe there is an inherent desire by humans to be a productive member of society. To nurture their God given talents through education and hard work in order to achieve something for themselves and society. Not only can this translate into personal wealth and well-being, but we too can benefit from some new convenience, invention or medical break-through. But when you aspire to nothing but a government handout, you deny yourself and society the wealth of your potential talent.
Those in government, who attempt to ensure the equal distribution of wealth are guaranteeing the unequal outcome of poverty. The presence of God and a functional family has been substituted with a culture of rap/gangs and a government official. We must reject the notion that every societal ill needs a new government program! Shame on those “race-baiters” who use this as a means for political power and wealth.
Black society has 73 percent of households with one parent (The Huffington Post and Black in America 7/13). The dropout rate is nearly 50 percent (National Public Radio, Urban Institute and Schott Family Foundation). One third of young blacks have a criminal history. Instead of having the economic and social guidance of parents, black youths have been taught to rely on the surrogate government for their economic well being and the gang/rap culture for their socialization. Poorly educated with no guidance has resulted in a cultural subset of moral depravity and barbarism! Their innate human spirit have been broken by the very programs designed to nurture it.
State and the federal government has spent over $16 trillion since 1964. There are 126 poverty programs, 33 housing assistance plans, 27 cash assistance programs, 21 food assistance programs, eight healthcare plans (CATO Institute Policy Analysis 4/12, The New American 6/12) — it goes on.
What we must consider, is a whole new look at the role of government.
The definition of stupidity is to continue to do the same thing that constantly fails. I submit that we need less government aid and a more robust economy.
An economy which encourages all levels of participation and delivers a feeling of accomplishment. We must ween those from their generational dependence created by government failures. I do believe a “rising tide lifts all boats” for all income levels. If we don’t confront these problems with open and frank discussion, we are doomed to perpetuate them. This will not be easy. Politicians must look beyond their party affiliation and come to the table as adults.
If not, we will continue to battle terrorism abroad while dying from within. How much longer must this go on?
Mayer resident supports change to
I read with great interest about the Boyd family in Mayer wanting to keep chickens. I applaud their efforts to change the Mayer city ordinance banning farm animals inside the city limits for lots under 10 acres. I was the person that approached the Mayer City Council a year ago asking them to change the ordinance.
I provided the council with examples of other cities and their ordinances as examples for them to consider. They turned me down, although they never explained that I did not have “certain things in place that the council would like to see.” Why would I spend the money to put something in place that is illegal? I was trying to go about all of this legally! Maybe I should have just gone ahead with putting in my chicken coop on the sly too.
So now that chicken are back on the table in the city of Mayer, so to speak, let’s make the new ordinance so that anyone who wants to can keeps chickens in the city. That would mean not having to go to each neighbor to ask permission to keep the chickens. After all, do we need to get neighbor’s permission to keep a dog or cat?