The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 26, 2013

Krohn: Monster mall need not fear tax

By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer

— Gov. Dayton’s idea of lowering the sales tax but expanding it to more types of sales is expectedly not sitting well with certain people. Specifically it rankles everyone who sells something not currently taxed, from newspaper owners who now get a free pass on sales taxes to lawyers and clothing retailers.

Dayton said he didn’t want to tax all clothing because it might hurt poorer people, so he’s suggesting taxing only clothing items priced at $100 or more.

I can easily count on one hand the number of $100-plus clothing items I’ve bought in the past five years. Actually I can count them on one finger — a leather coat a couple years ago. So I’m, of course, all in on the clothing sales tax idea.

But the folks at the Mall of America in Bloomington are greeting the clothing tax idea like the coming of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.    

To say the MOA has drawing power is an understatement. Some 17 million people make 40 million visits every year to the mall, many from out of state and even out of the country. So when the mall complains, politicians listen.

A spokesman for MOA was on the radio the other day, saying they have done a survey that showed 40 percent of their customers would stop coming to the mall if there was a sales tax on clothing.

What a crock.

You could build a molten lava-filled moat around MOA and 40 million visitors would still come, throwing grappling hooks across the abyss and climbing up the walls of Macy’s to get in.

I had to admire the public relations flack delivering the statement, though, because she didn’t break out in laughter about what she just said.

No one goes to the 500-store mall for bargains. It’s full of high-priced shops that feed shoppers’ need for entertainment and awe. The place has four Gaps and its own ZIP code.

They have a store that sells only magician products, another that offers only gourmet popcorns and one that has nothing but refrigerator magnets.

And there’s a store in the mall — LoveSac — that sells nothing but bean bag chairs. But they don’t call them bean bag chairs at MOA. They’re called “alternative furniture.” (I love writing about that store because its name sounds kinda dirty. But maybe its just me.)

The late Gov. Rudy Perpich would have been amused by the fact the mall continues to hold such powerful sway in the economy and at the Capitol.

The DFL Iron Ranger was roundly ridiculed when he brought the Grehmezian brothers to Minnesota and proposed building the biggest mall in the world in the Twin Cities. The idea helped solidify his nickname as “Governor Goofy.”

Not only was he proved right, most now wish they’d gone with the grander version of the mall that was originally proposed, including an indoor wave pool water park, hotels and office complex.

Perpich was a lonely visionary on several topics. He was the first politician to focus on the international role states would play. He pressed for Internet and cell phone expansion when they were in their infancy and seen as a novelty. He wanted the state to help turn a shut-down northern Minnesota mill into a chopstick factory — an idea most derided as crazy. I bet they’d love having that chopstick factory today.

Perpich even donated his $25,000 pay raise to help promote bocce ball, something no one had heard of but is now widely played.

Although I doubt even he could have seen coming a store dedicated to bean bag chairs.

Talk about goofy.

Tim Krohn is a Free Press staff writer. He can be contacted at 344-6383 or tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com.