Latest Posts





Minnesota Supreme Court ruling on St. Paul fees already having statewide impact

Last year Center of the American Experiment decided to get involved in a legal challenge to St. Paul’s right-of-way maintenance fee and filed an amicus brief because we believed the resolution of the case could help protect local taxpayers statewide.  We were right.

St. Paul had been charging a fee to all property owners to fund their portion of the city’s road maintenance budget.  By calling it a fee, the city was able to avoid certain constitutional limitations on taxation, including uniformity requirements, limits on special assessments, and exemptions for churches and other nonprofit organizations.

Cities across the state are using fees more and more to fund general public services like road maintenance, usually in the form of utility franchise fees and special service district fees.  This trend not only bypasses constitutional limitations on taxation, but it obscures the true cost of government and makes it harder for citizens to hold their elected officials accountable.  When revenue is diversified across multiple fees, it becomes incredibly hard for citizens account for how it is collected and used.

In August, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that declared the fee charged by the City of St. Paul to fund road maintenance was in fact a tax that was subject to the state constitution’s limitations on taxation.

Less than three weeks from the Court’s ruling, Duluth mayor Emily Larson proposed a budget that would shift current funding for streets raised from utility franchise fees to the property tax levy.  She cited the Court’s ruling against St. Paul as the reason for the shift.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that “Larson referred to the decision as ‘unambiguous’ and said it also threw Duluth’s use of the street fees into question.”  The city’s chief administrative officer offered these additional comments on the impact of the court decision, “While Duluth’s street fee has differences from St. Paul, this ruling puts our current street funding at risk, and if continued, exposes Duluth taxpayers to potential liability.”

This immediate realization of what the ruling means for city budgets and how cities can and cannot use fees is an incredibly positive development.   It shows at least one city is falling in line with the rule of law without needing to resort to further litigation to protect taxpayers.  Hopefully, other cities quickly follow Duluth’s lead.





Upcoming Events

  • Morning in Minnesota: St. Cloud

    Location: St. Cloud

    Sign up HERE! Courtyard by Marriott St. Cloud 404 West Saint Germain Street St. Cloud, MN, 56301 Please join Center of the American Experiment on Tuesday, July 21 for breakfast with Center policy fellow and education expert Catrin Wigfall as she explains K-12 education in the state and its persistent disparities despite decades of increased spending. Following her presentation, Catrin will lead a Q&A session. 7:30 AM Check In and Breakfast 8:00 AM Presentation 9:00 AM Conclude   Catrin Wigfall is a Policy Fellow at Center of the American Experiment. She is also the director of EducatedTeachersMN and EmployeeFreedomMN. Catrin’s…

    Register Now
  • Morning in Minnesota: Marshall

    Location: Marshall Golf Club

      Sign up for this event HERE! Please join Center of the American Experiment on Thursday, July 16 at Marshall Golf Club for a breakfast with Center economist, John Phelan, as he discusses Minnesota’s economic future. Following his presentation, John will lead a Q&A session. 7:30 AM Check In and Breakfast 8:00 AM Presentation 9:00 AM Conclude John Phelan is a graduate of Birkbeck College, University of London, where he earned a BSc in Economics, and of the London School of Economics where he earned an MSc. He worked in finance for ten years before becoming a professional economist. He…

    Register Now
  • 2020 Annual Dinner Featuring Sarah Huckabee Sanders- Now in September!

    Location: Minneapolis Convention Center Ballroom 1301 2nd Ave S Minneapolis, MN 55403

    NEW SEPTEMBER DATE: We have made the difficult decision to once again move the date of this event. We will now host our Annual Dinner on Saturday, September 19th. All tickets bought for the April 4th, or June 18th dates are transferrable. We are so sorry for any inconvenience this has caused, but we look forward to seeing you on September 19! Direct any questions to Kathryn Hinderaker (kathryn.hinderaker@americanexperiment.org or 612-428-7005).   American President: The Unorthodox Approach to Politics that Changed the World. Sarah Huckabee Sanders served as White House Press Secretary for President Donald J. Trump from 2017 to…

    Register Now