MOORHEAD, Minn. — Hennepin County, home of the great city of Minneapolis, generates more state income, sales and corporate tax revenue each year than the 80 rural counties in Minnesota combined.
All of those tax dollars, and others, then get put into a big pot called the general fund and are distributed back to the state.
Except, and here's the really fun part, the money isn't distributed equitably. Dollars don't go back on a one-to-one basis compared to how they were collected. So Hennepin County gets short-changed. It pays out, on a percentage basis, more than is returned.
The same is true of the seven-county metropolitan area that includes Hennepin County.
The metro pays 66% of the major taxes collected annually in Minnesota compared to 34% from the 80 rural counties combined. Yet the rural counties get back 46% of the total state aid, compared to 54% to the metro counties.
State aid comes in various forms. It pays for public education, state highways, public works and essential services such as police, fire and ambulance. Therefore, it greatly reduces property taxes in areas without large tax bases. You know, like rural areas.
In other words, rural counties get back much more than they pay in. Metro counties, particularly Hennepin County, get back less.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying what I already said in a recent column: Hennepin County and the Twin Cities metro area subsidize rural Minnesota. To the tune of billions of dollars.
Minnesota lawmakers 50 years ago had the foresight to know rural areas wouldn't be able to afford basic services without help from the big cities.
Yet rural Minnesotans and their Republican state legislators continue to play divisive, mean-spirited and racist politics by wanting to deny Minneapolis businesses $150 million to aid in cleaning up and restarting after the riots sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a police officer.
It's shameful. Minneapolis, the most important city in the state, is being hurt because rural Minnesota and its politicians are somehow trying to get back at DFL Gov. Tim Walz.
It's also counterproductive. A thriving Minneapolis is good for the rest of the state. The more tax dollars Minneapolis and Hennepin County generate, the more that can be distributed to the rest of the state for water treatment plants, bridges, highways and fire departments.
It's a two-way street, of course. Rural Minnesota provides the Twin Cities with recreation and leisure, not to mention workers, commerce and food. Each part of the state depends on the other for certain things. It's always been so. And it's always worked.
Yes 57% No 43%
Should the Minnesota Legislature OK money to help Minneapolis businesses rebuild after last summer's riots?
Thank you for voting!
Here's a suggestion if you are one of those angered about helping Minneapolis: If you don't want "your" tax money going once to help Minneapolis businesses damaged through no fault of their own, perhaps you don't want to accept all the dollars flowing from Minneapolis every year to help your community.
It's the principle of the thing, right?
Minneapolis taxpayers shouldn't hold their breath. Rural Minnesota will continue to have one hand out while punching the big city with the other.
Readers can reach Forum News Service columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 451-5655