Letter to the editor: Republicans hurt the regionLast November, Republicans were swept into the majority of both the Minnesota House and Senate for the first time since 1972. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of weeks before they began their assault on the Arrowhead.
By: From Sen. Tom Bakk and Rep. David Dill, Minnesota Legislature, Lake County News Chronicle
Over the past 40 years, northern Minnesota has been faced with some very difficult challenges. Sweeping changes have occurred in our economy, which have affected area industries as well as our environment. We’ve adapted and survived in the face of adversity. A strong partnership with the state has been a large part of our success.
For nearly all of this time our legislature has either been split between parties or controlled by the DFL. Last November, Republicans were swept into the majority of both the Minnesota House and Senate for the first time since 1972. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of weeks before they began their assault on the Arrowhead. Many of their proposals ultimately became law and will result in an average 7.3 percent property tax increase in taconite region communities, according to non-partisan tax staff.
Statewide, property taxes will go up nearly $1 billion over the next three years.
This past session, House and Senate Republicans put a target on the Market Value Homestead Credit. This is a state-paid program that reduces property taxes for homeowners. All of the major GOP tax bills throughout the session contained the elimination of this program. In the end, they successfully killed this very popular dollar-for-dollar tax break.
The $365 million in savings generated by this cut wasn’t even used to create a tax break elsewhere – it went toward balancing the General Fund deficit. Instead of raising income taxes on millionaires, as Governor Dayton had proposed, Republicans chose to balance the budget by raising property taxes on seniors, the middle class, and our small businesses.
Renters too will see the effects of the new GOP tax increases. They pay property taxes as a part of their rent and many qualify for tax breaks just like homeowners. The approximately 400,000 Minnesotans who’ve received benefits from the renter’s refund program will see their rebates cut by an average of $85 per year. Our seniors and disabled renters weren’t excluded from this cut so they’ll end up paying more as well.
More than $275 million in local government aid was also cut, and will lead to additional property tax increases. It’s been estimated that $.50 of every dollar the state spends on aid to our local governments goes toward keeping property tax levies down. The GOP tax bill in the House would have eliminated Duluth’s aid entirely if it had become law.
l Raiding of the Douglas J. Johnson Economic Protection Fund by $60 million, which is generated through taconite taxes (vetoed by Governor Dayton)
l Elimination of the escalator clause from the taconite production tax (vetoed by Governor Dayton)
l Repeal of the Sustainable Forest Incentive Act (proposed by GOP; a cut became law)
l Cuts to state payments in lieu of property taxes on state owned property (became law)
The Arrowhead is and always has been an economic engine for our state – from tourism to mining to forestry. Why the Republican leaders at the legislature would want to diminish the future of our community is beyond us. We just hope it ends soon.
Finally, we’d like to thank you, our constituents, for your patience and support during this difficult and far too partisan political climate in our state. Have an enjoyable fall season.