Board Defeats New Wheelage Tax

Written by Jeff Johnson on July 22nd, 2011. Posted in Taxpayer Victory

Taxpayer Victory: No New Auto Tax

On a 2-5 vote, the County Board yesterday defeated a proposal to assess a $5 tax onto every automobile in Hennepin County.  Commissioners Callison, Johnson, Opat and Stenglein joined me in voting “no”.

The rationale given for the new tax: It would benefit property tax payers in the county by shifting $4 million per year off the property tax role and onto automobile owners – an appropriate user fee for those who use the roads.

To argue that creating a new tax on our constituents somehow benefits them is … curious.  In reality, I think there were probably two more important motives behind this proposal:

1. More Money.  Government at every level is always looking for new sources of revenue.  While the amount this new tax would have yielded was small in the grand scheme of a $1.56 billion budget, it was new money nonetheless.  And “naive” would be a mild descriptor for anyone who believed we would actually make any long-term cut in property taxes to offset the new tax.

Taxpayer Victory: Board Cuts Property Tax Levy

Written by Jeff Johnson on December 15th, 2010. Posted in Taxpayer Victory

Tax levy will be smaller for the first time in nearly 20 yearsvictory

The county board unanimously voted yesterday to pass a 2011 budget containing a 1% general property tax levy decrease.  This is the first time since the early 90’s that the county general levy has been cut (and only the second time in over 30 years). 

We came into yesterday’s final 2010 meeting with a proposed budget holding the general levy flat.  Commissioner Opat proposed the 1% decrease (which represents about a $6.8 million tax cut).  I moved to amend his proposal to cut the levy by 1.7%, which is the amount we would need to cut this year in order to hold the “average” home in Hennepin County harmless from a county tax increase.  My amendment failed on a 2 – 5 vote, with Mark Stenglein joining me.

The good news was tempered a bit by the fact that the board raised the other two county tax levies.

The county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority levy (which was just created 2 years ago) was increased from $3.6 million to $5.6 million and the county’s Rail Authority levy was increased from $15 million to $18 million.  So, in the end, we cut taxes by about $6.8 million and raised taxes by $5 million – overall a net win for the taxpayers of Hennepin County.

Taxpayer Victory: Cleaning in the Light of Day

Written by Jeff Johnson on February 5th, 2010. Posted in Taxpayer Victory

victoryJanitors will clean Hennepin County buildings during the day.

Yesterday’s Star Tribune included a story (“Cleaning in the Light of Day“) about the upcoming change to janitorial services in Hennepin County buildings:

Janitors typically do their work sight unseen, after everyone else has gone home.  But soon that’s going to change at the Hennepin County Government Center and other heavily used county buildings.

By shutting off the lights and turning down the thermostats at night, the county expects to save at least $100,000 a year in energy costs. 

Starting March 1, about half of Hennepin County’s buildings – 63 in all – will be vacuumed, wiped down, swept and emptied of trash during the daytime rather than at night.  It’s thought to be the first public entity in Minnesota to move to day cleaning, a trend that has gained popularity in the private sector.

Taxpayer Victory: Paying for Performance

Written by Jeff Johnson on September 22nd, 2009. Posted in Taxpayer Victory

victoryBoard Unanimously Requires Pay-for-Performance Contracts

The County Board last week unanimously passed a resolution I proposed which will require the county’s Human Services Department and Corrections Department to more widely use pay-for-performance contracts with hundreds of county vendors.In essence, this means that many of the organizations hired by the county to provide services will be paid based upon their ability to prove they have achieved measurable, long-term changes for the people they serve. In my opinion, this constitutes basic accountability in government spending.

The county has been using pay-for-performance contracts with select vendors for the past several years. It is not, however, a widespread practice. Many of our contracts are based solely on “outputs” – how many people a particular vendor served.

Taxpayer Victory on Eminent Domain

Written by Jeff Johnson on August 30th, 2009. Posted in Taxpayer Victory

In July, I blogged about some significant positive changes that are occuring in Hennepin County regarding out-of-home placement issues for juvenile offenders. I thought it would make sense to post a positive award each month to bookend the monthly Golden Fire Hydrant award. Good things do happen in government sometimes.

August’s Taxpayer Victory award goes to a unanimous vote of the Board to rescind authority earlier given to county staff to condemn property through eminent domain.