Keith Downey R - Edina
by Steve Timmer
May 31, 2012, 11:00 AM

Keith the Edina business hater

This past legislative session, there was an initiative to enforce a levy of the sales tax on sales to Minnesota customers by out of state, primarily online, retailers. It was even called the “Amazon tax.” A principal raison d’être for the Amazon tax is that it would put local retailers and online retailers on a more equal footing.

Local retailers all have stories about consumers using their store as a catalog showroom, at say, Southdale, especially for pricey items, and then buying the item online. Adding insult to injury, sometimes the consumer returns with the item to ask for advice on operation or for service or parts.

The e-fairness sales tax idea enjoys broad support among local retailers’ trade associations. According to Lori Sturdevant at the link, Greg Davids, Republican chair of the tax committee in the House, is behind it. So was, miracle of miracles, Geoff Michel. Julianne Ortman, Davids’ opposite number in the Senate, authored a bill to implement e-fairness, but then she soured on the idea:

And in February 2011, an e-fairness bill was introduced by Senate Taxes chair Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen.

She says she aimed to give the idea a hearing, nothing more. Before the 2011 session ended, Ortman announced her opposition to her own bill. She said such tax policies ought to be settled in Congress, not the states, and that a state move risked running afoul of the courts. (Nine states have passed similar legislation. It has been upheld in several court tests but rejected in Illinois.)

Just to be clear here: Julianne Ortman, a member of the party of states’ rights, wants the federal gubmint to resolve a tax issue. But really, there’s something else at work here:

But just putting her [Ortmann’s] name on the e-fairness bill 15 months ago — alongside that of a DFL cosponsor, Sen. Ann Rest — added to party folks’ suspicions that Ortman’s Tea is a little weak. She was denied GOP endorsement on May 15, and will need to win a primary to contend for a fourth term in the Nov. 6 election.

That ought to give you a clue where the current reigning Cicero of Edina, Keith Downey, stands on the idea. “Killing ants with a hammer,” intones Downey, which perhaps offers more insight on what Downey did for fun as a child than it does about tax policy.

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