The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 19, 2013

Blue Earth County makes pitch to lawmakers for help

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MANKATO —

The county still takes a hit when an inmate is hospitalized because a custody officer has to be guarding the inmate 24 hours a day during the hospital stay. The jail already covers the cost of outpatient health care for inmates. If the legislation passes, counties would at least be spared the medical expense during a costly hospital stay.

“It’s just a common-sense bill,” Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg said.

Sales tax

Local governments have long complained about paying state sales tax on the purchases they make — noting the inefficiency of a local government collecting extra property taxes to cover the cost of paying a sales tax to the state government.

Blue Earth County pays an estimated $330,000 in sales tax each year, Meyer said.

Bills have been introduced to exempt local governments from sales tax for all purchases and also for specific purchases, such as new radio systems being purchased by law enforcement, fire and emergency response agencies statewide.

Infrastructure

The county is making a pitch for more road funding in general, along with a specific appropriation through the state bonding bill for the aging Rapidan Dam.

A total of $2.4 million is being sought for renovations and improvements to the dam across the Blue Earth River, which is now more than a century old. More money for roads also will be encouraged with county officials noting the payoff that is coming with the federal-state-local investment in a new interchange on Highway 14 on Mankato’s east side.

“We’ve seen it firsthand with the Wal-Mart distribution center,” Meyer said. “That investment does pay off.”

Licensing, corrections

The fee counties can charge for administering driver’s licenses needs to be increased from $5 to $8 or more, according to the county. Licensing staff have calculated that the cost of providing the licenses exceeds the reimbursement rate, which has been stuck at $5 since 2005, Meyer said.

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