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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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DRAZKOWSKI AUTHORS BILLS TO PROTECT FARMERS AND END POLITICAL WELFARE

Friday, February 06, 2015

This week I dropped two bills in the hopper that deal with political contributions from taxpayers and property tax fairness with farmers.

In order to ease the burden of rural landowners who are being overwhelmed by soaring property tax increases, I’m authoring the Minnesota Family Farm Protection Act in the Minnesota House, which would exempt farmland from capital bond levies.

State law already recognizes the house, garage, and one acre provision for school operating levies. The proposed legislation would apply to construction levies offered by schools, cities and counties.

The goal of the Minnesota Family Farm Protection Act is to avoid disproportionate taxation between residents who live in the city and the country. When a levy is approved by the voters, the average city homeowner can expect a property tax increase to cost hundreds of dollars each year. For the average farmer, an approved levy can cost them thousands of dollars depending on the number of acres they own. This is why I want farmland exempted and want to limit future property tax liability to a farmer’s house, garage, and one acre of land.

The Minnesota Family Farm Protection Act is supported by the Minnesota Farm Bureau, the Minnesota Farmers Union, and other state farm organizations. It also has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, so I’m hopeful for a positive outcome by session’s end.

I’d also like to prevent taxpayers from subsidizing the election efforts of politicians, which is why I’m sponsoring a bill that would eliminate this political welfare.

The legislation would specifically target two programs that are currently authorized in law. The first would eliminate the Political Contribution Refund (PCR), which allows individual donors to be reimbursed up to $50 per year for their political contributions, while married couples can receive $100 from the state. This would result in an estimated $12 million savings.

It would also repeal the state elections campaign fund, which provides public financing of election campaigns for governor-lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, and state legislative races. These amounts are allocated among the general account and the party accounts for those races based on $5 ($10 for married joint filers) check-offs made on individual income tax returns and property tax refund claims. The amount checked-off directs general fund revenues to the state elections campaign fund, and does not reduce the filer's refund or increase the tax owed. This would result in an estimated $1.7 million savings.

I authored a similar bill to repeal both programs during the 2011-12 legislative session. It passed the House in May of 2011, but not the Senate.

If we are to focus our efforts on the needs of Minnesotans, then in my opinion we must end both of these political welfare programs that consume large amounts of taxpayer dollars each biennium.