counter statistics

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hennepin County Taxpayers Targeted

After the Stadium boondoggle, Target is approaching the county with their hands out to feed at the public trough - er for a "tax abatement." The practical effect of this is to increase Hennepin County property taxes for others. Outraged taxpayers can call Target's media department for comment.

CONTACT: Target Corporation
Susan Kahn (investor)
Cathy Wright (financial media)

From the strib:

The county reaction

County officials have reacted cautiously to the request, though Commissioner Linda Koblick has questioned whether a decision on Target's proposal had been purposely delayed until after Tuesday's county elections.

That was my thought. It's mighty convenient for Mark Stenglein to have this come up AFTER the election.

"I think there are political implications to tax abatement," she said. "There's a huge precedent ... to proceeding with this."

County Board Chairman Randy Johnson and other county officials said there was no attempt to push the issue back until after the elections -- four of the seven commissioners faced reelection, and all won handily -- but Johnson added that the proposal is challenging.

"It's an exciting concept and project, but they're asking for a lot," he said. While Johnson said that Target had not directly told him the project's fate or size might hinge on a county property tax abatement, he added that "they've suggested it [and] they've hinted at it."

Commissioner Mike Opat, whose district includes the project site, said that while it is unclear how much property tax abatement Target is seeking, the company had not told him that the project hung in the balance. "It's a new world order for us," Opat said of tax abatements. "[But] I'm very receptive to it. I want to help them, but make it reasonable."

Target officials did not elaborate Friday on their reasons for requesting the county tax abatement, but in earlier correspondence with the county, a company representative said Target was "only seeking a relatively modest participation by Hennepin County." Peter Kitchak, a real estate adviser for Target, added that "the long-term return for Hennepin County from a proportionately small investment is very significant, particularly when measured against other 'suburban style' development."

According to county records, Target approached Hennepin County last spring, about five months after the company's plans in Brooklyn Park were disclosed. In an Aug. 24 letter, Jill Alverson, the county's director of taxpayer services, said that Target had originally requested "a decision from Hennepin as soon as possible." But Alverson, in the letter, said the company had changed course and "was not seeking a decision from Hennepin County until early 2007."


Taxpayers pay the bill

Shame on Target Corp. for waiting until now to ask for a tax abatement for its Brooklyn Park project. Hennepin County is now being held hostage by a major corporation wanting more help from the taxpayer.

Where does Target think the county will make up those missing dollars? Is it providing that many high-paying jobs to people to make up the difference?

No, the taxes will come from the great swath of middle class in Hennepin County who are already being strangled by high property taxes.


Nick Coleman has a good column about this.

Once upon a time, companies like Target were ashamed to ask for handouts from a government that had kids to feed and libraries to run and cops to hire. Thankfully, we no longer live in hard times. The welfare queens and their babies -- it's always, "Feed me, wah, wah, feed me!" with these kids -- have been kicked off the welfare rolls to make room for worthier recipients.

Still, I think Brooklyn Park and Hennepin County should go a lot farther for Target than they have offered so far. For example, that whole "Brooklyn Park" name is way stupid and outmoded. It's not Brooklyn, and it's not a park. How about showing a willingness to please? How about calling your town Target, Minnesota?

And when will Hennepin County stop being stingy to corporations with their hands out? Forget about forgiving taxes for Target. Let's start GIVING taxes to Target!

The way this cumbersome abatement thing is proposed now, Target would be freed from property taxes while homeowners and other businesses would pick up the slack. That's too complicated. Let's be bold! Let's put a "Target Tax," a big one, on everyone. That way, we can take pride in being "Targeted" and be happy our money is shipped straight to Target! That's the kind of people we are: Happy to Pay For Target.