WOODBURY, Minn. — For about the last five years, the Woodbury City Council has passed a resolution outlining its positions on issues that could potentially arise in the upcoming state legislative session.
Last year, the council decided it wanted advocacy for whole agenda rather than going issue by issue: in February 2019, the council approved a three-year contract with the firm Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P. for legislative representation. Organizations like the Municipal Legislative Commission and Metro Cities also represent Woodbury in the legislature on broader issues.
Most of the positions the council takes are philosophical and aren't related to any specific bills, city administrator Clint Gridley said. Most of the items carry over from year to year. For example, the city broadly supports more local control for municipalities, and so makes clear its opposition to state-imposed levy limits in its legislative agenda.
Will Woodbury finally impose a lodging tax?
In its 2020 legislative agenda, the city expresses its support for special legislation allowing the city "more flexibility" when it comes to lodging tax revenue, or money that comes from a tax on hotel stays. The council has debated imposing a lodging tax for years as Woodbury has come to see itself as a regional city, serving people throughout the region rather than just its residents.
Minnesota statute allows a 3% lodging tax, but only if 95% of the revenue goes toward promoting the city as a tourist destination or convention center. Gridley said Woodbury would seek special legislation like that approved in Plymouth last year — a 3% lodging tax, with 2% dedicated to capital improvement projects and 1% allocated to destination marketing.
Ideally, the city would be able to use these tax revenues to fund capital improvement projects like renovations to Central Park, a 20-year-old facility that houses the Woodbury YMCA, a Washington County library and an indoor playground, as well as an indoor amphitheater, event space and meeting spaces.
"Unfortunately, state statute does not give councils flexibility to choose to use the money as they see fit, and that's part of our local control issue," Gridley said. "We're asking not for any additional taxing authority — we're just asking for use flexibility."
Because a tax bill is unlikely to come through the legislature in 2020, the issue may have a better chance of coming up in 2021, Gridley said.
Other key legislative issues in Woodbury's 2020 agenda
- The expansion of sales tax exemptions to include general vehicle purchases (marked squad cars and emergency vehicles are exempt), fuel purchases, lodging and prepared foods, and municipal golf course purchases
- A comprehensive transportation funding package, interchange improvements and the METRO Gold Line project
- The ability of local governments to impose infrastructure fees on developers
- State-imposed levy limits, with the goal of ensuring local city councils can formulate their own local budget
- The use of fiscal disparities to fund housing, social or physical metropolitan programs, such as the Mall of America in Bloomington, with fiscal disparities used only for tax base redistribution
- Mandatory targets for affordable housing imposed by the Metropolitan Council, as well as any other expansion of their power, and support for a Met Council composed of representatives from local governmental leadership