To the editor:
Some bills contain both pros and cons for a particular region. Take, for example, the omnibus tax bill that passed the House on Monday and means a variety of things to the Fergus Falls area.
On one hand, there is a provision in the bill that would provide a tax credit to help convert the Regional Treatment Center in Fergus Falls to a cross-cultural college campus. The Hunan Normal University in China would act as a sister campus to Fergus Falls, with international business studies the training focus.
There has been bipartisan support for this project and it would be a real feather in the cap for the Fergus Falls region and providing this tax incentive certainly would be helpful.
Meantime, the bill kills the JOBZ package of business tax incentives. As I’ve pointed out before, Fergus Falls alone has at least 10 businesses that have benefited from JOBZ. The program has helped retain/create nearly 250 jobs in Fergus Falls and almost 17,000 jobs averaging more than $11 per hour through 327 deals across the state.
JOBZ was re-tooled based on the advice of the Legislative Auditor to make it more effective than it’s already been, but it still didn’t survive the House. Given our current economic unsteadiness, eliminating helpful programs like this seems counterproductive. The message it sends to businesses is cause for great concern and hopefully JOBZ will be re-examined by a conference committee and restored before the bill reaches Gov. Pawlenty.
Furthermore, there is some question as to how many “winners” and “losers” in regard to a tax shift. This bill is being touted as a bill of tax relief, but the Department of Revenue shared information showing the bill may only benefit one-third of Minnesota homeowners while the rest either pay increased taxes or receive no relief at all. Notably, the bill would eliminate the ability to deduct property taxes for state income tax purposes.
You can log onto http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/committee.asp?comm=3000 to see exactly how this bill would affect your tax liability.
I’ll keep you posted on the tax bill as any news develops.