Letter

To the editor,

The International Falls Area Chamber of Commerce opposes the proposed gas tax increase currently being debated by the state legislature.

Recent polls conducted by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce show that voters statewide oppose Governor Walz’s 20-cents-per-gallon gas tax, and 75 percent of greater Minnesota - non-Metro - are in opposition to the gas tax increase. We join with greater Minnesota in opposition of this tax as we believe this burden will have a severely negative impact on our community.

An increase to gas costs would directly impact both of our region’s top two industries – wood products and tourism. This proposed increase would increase costs of harvesting and hauling wood and wood products impacting not only our largest employer in the area, but would trickle down to all small businesses that support our paper mill and wood product-based businesses.

By the same token, increasing the gas tax would impact all commodities moving on highways in and out of our area. Our local grocers and retailers would be hit with an increase to their cost of goods. These increased business costs are often ultimately is paid for by the consumer. Koochiching County, being one of the most economically depressed counties in Minnesota, does not have the base of business or population to bear this additional burden.

Tourism is always impacted by rising fuel costs, and increasing the gas tax by 20-cents would not only impede people from driving into our area, it will also impact what they do here. Without the recreational exemption, the added gas tax could impact year-round recreating increasing the cost of boating, four-wheeling and snowmobiling.

In addition to inhibiting people from driving to our area, our citizens will also bear the burden of the increased gas tax as they travel in and out of town for business, school events, social activities and other commerce. Our community has a wonderful program in place with the gas cards in support of people

needing to travel for medical treatments and such a large tax increase would add to the burden of the individuals and the program alike.

While the Chamber supports multimodal transportation systems for safe, reliable and efficient movement of people and products, we believe our legislators should be looking for additional dollars from the general fund to be allocated to transportation funding. The business community pays half of the gas tax and all Minnesotans depend on the efficient and safe delivery of people and goods.

We would like to ask our state legislators to consider the full rural impact of this tax and vote against this aggressive increase.

Jay Bartkowski

Chair, Board of Directors

International Falls Area Chamber of Commerce

International Falls, MN

Editor's note: This letter was also signed by the chamber’s full board of directors: Pam Oveson , Sue Natysin, Roma Korzinski, Suzie Best, Ed Gackley, Eric Johnson, Robb Pastor, Mike Turenne,Tricia Heibel.

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