A push for more state jobs; Novak appeals to state Revenue Commissioner, points to court ruling to tax outside companies

by Tom Coombe -

Few local officials have been as dogged as mayor Chuck Novak in lobbying for state jobs to be located in Ely.
Novak is back at it again, indicating this week that he has initiated communication with the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s top administrator, asking that the state put more positions in its Ely branch.
In a June 29 letter to Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly, Novak cited a recent Supreme Court ruling that allows the state to collect sales tax dollars from companies that don’t have a physical presence in the state.
Novak asked Bauerly “to consider Ely as a place of employment for individuals that you may have to hire to research the internet and identify those retailers that we now lose sales tax revenue from. I view this as a tax collection issue and therefore feel that Ely is the statutorily defined tax collection office.”
He addressed the letter Tuesday with his fellow city council members.
“I can’t think of any place better for the jobs to be than in Ely,” said Novak.
Because of the Fourth of July holiday, Revenue officials were not immediately available for comment.
Novak said there is ample space at the Revenue Department’s facilities in Ely, which include adjacent buildings in the city’s business park, one owned by the state and the other by the city.
Currently, Revenue has about 100 employees in Ely and the agency recently “back-filled” several posts here that had become vacant.
According to a job posting online, the agency hired up to six people to fill “Revenue Collections Officer 2” positions, which have a salary range between $18.66 and $26.99 per hour, plus comprehensive state benefits including health insurance.
City officials, particularly Novak, have made job growth a priority and the mayor has lobbied officials ranging from area legislators to Gov. Mark Dayton and Revenue leaders to bring more state jobs to Ely.
Novak said he plans to take his push for more jobs to both State Sen. Tom Bakk and State Rep. Rob Ecklund,
“We’ll see if I hear back and where it goes,” he told the council.
The Revenue operation in Ely started in the late-1980s with a handful of employees and gradually expanded, with state officials consistently praising the Ely workforce for its stability as well as success in garnering additional revenue for the state.