The legislative session is in its fifth week and bills continue to make their way through committees. If you haven’t gotten an opportunity to respond to my 2012 Legislative Survey, there’s still time to fill it out. You can find the survey here. Your input is very valuable as I move through the session.
On Wednesday, Feb. 15, Governor Dayton delivered his State of the State address, outlining his proposals to put Minnesotans back to work, reform government, and improve Minnesota’s workforce.
I applaud Governor Dayton’s leadership and his forward-thinking vision for the future of our state. Our state’s economic future is improving, but remains uncertain. The path toward a lasting economic recovery will require us to focus on jobs and rebuilding a strong middle class.
It’s time to set aside distracting constitutional amendments and focus on what matters to Minnesotans: creating jobs, strengthening our economy and improving our education system. Minnesotans have always left our state stronger for the generation that follows us. It’s time for us to get to work to do the same.
Regrettably, a bill that makes $70 million a year in cuts to the Renters’ Credit, a property tax refund program that helps about 300,000 Minnesota households, is making its way through the legislative process. The Renters’ Credit returns part of the property taxes that renters pay via rent payments. More than 25 percent of those who receive this relief are seniors and people with disabilities. The GOP majority has chosen to give business property tax relief at the expense of 97% of all senior and disabled renters and 100% of all non-senior and non-disabled renters.
Targeting low- and moderate-income renters is misguided and wrong. To begin with, the Renters’ Credit was cut by $26 million during the Special Session last summer, a 13 percent cut. It resulted in nearly 300,000 Minnesota households seeing an $87 cut on average and almost 7,300 households lost their renters credit entirely. In addition, property taxes on apartments have skyrocketed due to the elimination of the Homestead Credit so renters are getting a double whammy.
Under the GOP majority’s bill, another 74,000 households would lose their entire property tax refund, which is almost 25 percent of those who participate. For those still getting the credit, it would mean they lose another $221 on average – remember that’s in addition to the $87 already cut. That’s a significant hit to anyone living on a fixed income or families that live paycheck to paycheck.
There is another good reason to keep the Renters’ Credit intact. Studies show that those who get the Renters’ Credit spend their property tax refund on necessities like school supplies, groceries, prescriptions and car repairs. The Renters’ Credit puts money directly into stores and businesses and boosts local economies. Every dollar counts for the seniors, persons with disabilities, and lower-wage workers that the Renters’ Credit benefits.
While the majority’s bill phases out statewide business property tax over 12 years, it gives scant relief to homeowners and no relief at all to farmers who saw sizeable increases this year. Even the business relief does not start until 2013 and it leaves a gaping hole in future budgets.
Legislators need to have clear priorities and low- and moderate- income renters are already shouldering more than their fair share of the property tax burden. Targeting seniors and the disabled for business tax relief is simply unconscionable.
Thank you again for the honor of serving you in the legislature. You can reach me by phone at (651) 296-3751, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by sending mail to my office: 229 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155.