ST. PAUL — Mankato and North Mankato’s request to extend their local sales taxes may be collateral damage from the Legislature’s inability to compromise on the larger tax bill.
The cities’ request was nestled in that larger bill, and fell apart along with high-level negotiations on larger issues. Because a special session appears likely, it’s possible a pared-down tax bill could include the sales tax extension.
But advocates are already looking ahead to 2016.
Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges doesn’t see much hope the stalemate will break next year.
“I’m not optimistic unless they meet over the summer that we would see much progress in 2016,” he said.
That’s because the sales tax bill was tied politically to a transportation bill. If a deal involving both isn’t reached, it seems unlikely either will pass.
On the bright side, an extra year will give the Mankato Sports Commission more time to plan about new athletic facilities.
“The good news in all of this will be it will clear up some issues about new recreational facilities,” Hentges said.
A lack of detail on that point was of concern to a key House Republican, Rep. Greg Davids of Preston. It was Davids’ January advice to get sales tax requests in quickly that led Mankato and North Mankato to step up their timeline.
Davids’ request for more details makes some sense, Hentges said.
“Our local council had concerns about that,” he said.
Anna Thill, president of Visit Mankato, said the sports commission will develop its plan in coming months by meeting with the people and groups who might use athletic facilities.
"It's not just about youth sports," she said. "We're really trying to go after all of the potential user groups."
The cities’ referendums weren’t slated to happen until 2016, regardless, so this delay may have few long-term consequences. Still, 2016 will be a short 10-week session so waiting until then makes for a thin margin of error.
Neither Hentges nor Mankato Sen. Kathy Sheran, the bill’s Senate author, were particularly surprised at the delay.
“I’m accustomed to approaching subjects more than one time,” Sheran said.
Perhaps the larger short-term impact will be the lack of a local government aid increase. The Senate version of the tax bill would have given an additional $166,233 to Mankato and $84,655 to North Mankato next year.