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Duluth Voters Overwhelmingly Back Sales Tax Hike for Roads

November 07, 2017 11:33 PM

Duluthians overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to approve a half-percent increase in local sales tax. 

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With all precincts reporting, 12,021 people voted in favor of the sales tax. Yes accounted for 77 percent of votes.

Mayor Emily Larson rolled out the sales tax proposal in August, saying people are frustrated with the city's streets. She said she was fairly confident the referendum would pass going into Tuesday.

"This even exceeded my expectation in terms of what the win margin would be," she said.

Funding improvements through a sales tax rather than a property tax means out-of-town visitors who use the city's streets will also pay a role in maintaining them.

"I'm so happy for this community because it is decisive, it is clear, I have very clear marching orders moving forward with the legislature," Larson said Tuesday. "And I think they get clear marching orders from this community that we have a solution, we are ready to move forward and we want to put the frustration with streets behind us."

For a $20 purchase in Duluth, the sales tax would add $.10. A $200 buy would mean $1 extra for the dedicated transportation sales tax. Duluth's Public Works Department estimates it could generate $7 million in revenue, tripling the amount they would be able to spend.

Currently, street improvement dollars come through a property tax levy. Annually, the city is able to spend about $1.5 million on preservation, repairs and reconstruction. With 450 miles of road in Duluth, that means only 2-3 miles are fixed up every year.

St. Louis County implemented its own half-cent transportation sales tax three years ago.


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