Rep Carly Melin pointed out on Twitter that the state put zero dollars into this project:
— Carly Melin (@carlymelin) November 8, 2013
I’ve updated that post to reflect that.
The argument here appears to be that these are local taxes collected for the IRRRB to be spent locally, so saying that the “state” spent the money is incorrect.
Interestingly, the state has attempted to raid those funds in the past, as Rep Melin has previously mentioned on Twitter:
FACT: Kurt Bills voted TWICE 2 raid IRRRB Doug Johnson Fund of $60 million dollars. Reckless 1-time money to balance St. Paul Budget #Debate
— Carly Melin (@carlymelin) September 18, 2012
If the state feels like it can raid the funds, while they may be local funds they aren’t entirely local funds.
She explained at the time in a press release:
Representative Melin noted that there is a long history of attempts to raid the funds for non-dedicated purposes. “Having spent my entire life on the Range, I have seen repeated attempts to steal our economic development money and use it to plug budget holes that legislators in St. Paul have created,” said Melin. “I won’t stand for it. This proposal continues the Republican agenda of robbing Peter to pay Paul. I guess when Republicans preach shared sacrifice in balancing Minnesota’s budget, what they actually mean is taking $60 million of our regional money to protect tax breaks for Minnesota’s wealthiest 5%.”
There are other examples of local taxes being collected with the authority of the state for use in the community where they were collected. For example, Minneapolis has a city-wide 0.5% sales tax and a series of downtown food and alcohol taxes that have historically been used to pay the mortgage on the Minneapolis convention center.
Last year, the state authorized the override of the Minneapolis city charter provision requiring a referendum in order to spend more than $10 million on pro sports stadiums in order to use hundreds of millions of locally collected tax dollars to subsidize a state project, the Vikings stadium.
Coincidentally, Rep. Melin voted in favor of using a my community’s money without my community’s permission to fill a hole in the state’s corporate welfare for the NFL budget. Instead of providing a tax break to Minnesota’s wealthiest 5%, that bill authorized a half billion dollar subsidy for a handful of America’s wealthiest 0.1%, who don’t even live in Minnesota. Granted, I’m sure that wasn’t Rep Melin’s justification for that vote.
My intent was to point out that, under the terms of the contract (as reported by the Duluth News Tribune and elsewhere) public money is being used to pay the entire salaries (and them some) of people working for a private company that made $1.37 billion in the past three months. I mistakenly stated that this was state money, when the credit for this deal really does belong with the IRRRB.