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State Representative Jenifer Loon

449 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-7449

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Posted: 2012-02-24 00:00:00
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Email update

Listening sessions Tuesday; Capitol roundup


Greetings from the Capitol!

In this issue:

1. Listening sessions
2. Leveling the taxpayer field
3. Promoting tax reform
4. Governor’s State of the State Address
5. More flexibility in K-12 personnel decisions

1. Listening sessions next Tuesday – hope to see you there!

I invite local residents to book individual or small-group sessions to meet with me and discuss whatever issues are on your mind. The event will take place 7 to 9 p.m., Feb. 28 in the Heritage Room II at Eden Prairie City Hall, 8080 Mitchell Road.

Reform is a crucial element in the 2012 legislative agenda as we work to improve the way our state operates and I am interested to hear more ideas for how we can do things better. Citizen participation is a key element in this process and I look forward to your input and suggestions.

District 42B residents are highly encouraged to reserve a 15-minute meeting slot by calling (651) 297-8187. Walk-ups are also welcome and will be accommodated first-come, first-served as time allows.

2. Leveling the taxpayer field

An important House Tax Committee meeting took place last week where we received a report from consultants retained by the Department of Revenue to review the fiscal disparities program. I authored the bill in 2010 which prompted this study.

This research was conducted to provide more information regarding a state redistribution program which impacts commercial and property taxes in the metro area. Eden Prairie is the No. 2 "contributor" city in this program. We sent nearly $10 million in commercial/industrial property taxes to other cities in the metro this year under the fiscal disparities program. Experts indicate our local residents pay nearly 8 percent more in property taxes because of this program.

I am utilizing the information contained in the study to draft legislation to dramatically reform the fiscal disparities program and the unfair burden it places on "contributor" cities like Eden Prairie. We need to conduct a thorough audit to determine the results this tax redistribution is producing and the purpose it is serving, something that has not happened since the program was established in 1975. In case you'd like to read more about this program and the study, click here to connect to a Star Tribune article.

3. Promoting Tax Reform

In related news, the Tax Committee also recently heard interesting testimony on my bill, H.F. 1822, which underscores the importance of overhauling Minnesota’s tax structure. My legislation would create a tax reform commission which includes members of the Legislature from both political sides of the aisle, in addition to appointments by the Governor and some private sector tax and economic experts, to develop revenue neutral tax reform legislation. The proposal must be presented to the 2013 legislature.

One testifier in favor of the commission stated it can take up to four years to have a claim disputing a property-value assessment to be resolved. We also heard testimony from accountants who said the Dept. of Revenue’s undertrained auditors are causing them an undue burden when they work to defend DOR claims against them.

These are examples of government inefficiency at its worst, impeding our entrepreneurs at a time we are relying on economic growth they provide to lead us back to prosperity. Numerous studies in the past have pointed to the fact that our tax structure and resulting revenue stream is volatile, inhibits economic development and job growth, and overly complex. It is time to get legislators on a bipartisan basis to tackle the assignment of creating a tax reform plan that will move our system towards greater fairness, transparency and effectiveness for a strong economy.

4. Governor's State of the State Address

The House chamber recently hosted Governor Mark Dayton as he delivered the annual State of the State Address. I share the goals he stressed regarding job creation and improving our educational system to bolster our future workforce. We may have differences in our approach to accomplishing these goals, but I wholeheartedly stand by the commitment to work together in bipartisan fashion to make improvements in those areas.

5. More flexibility in K-12 personnel decisions

We passed an important bill on the House floor last week to help provide school districts with more flexibility in their K-12 personnel decisions. Our bill allows schools to include teacher effectiveness as one of the factors considered when having to reduce staffing levels, rather than being forced to only use length of service as the determining factor. This is a common-sense initiative I co-authored, which allows schools to retain highly talented newer teachers if their ability warrants retention during layoffs.

The bill passed with bipartisan votes and a survey shows a clear majority of respondents (79%) believes laying off teachers based primarily on seniority hurts the quality of education for students (see the top of Page 3 in this report). The Senate is still working on this legislation and then it will head to a conference committee to reconcile differences between the legislative bodies’ versions of the bill. There is still time to collaborate and alleviate any concerns with this initiative as the bill moves through the legislative process.

I am greatly concerned about the achievement gap in our state’s schools and this bill is a component of bipartisan reform efforts to address the problem. Quality teaching is one of the most important factors in a child's academic success, and every child deserves a great teacher.

Thanks for taking the time to read this update. As always, I hope you will keep in touch on matters of interest before the legislature. Your comments and suggestions help me do a better job representing you and our community.

Best regards,
Jenifer

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