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

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Monday, April 20, 2015

With a bi-partisan vote, the Minnesota House Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division has adopted a comprehensive proposal that empowers taxpayers and provides many with property tax relief.

Farmers who have been unfairly burdened by property tax decisions over the years receive positive news under this proposal. When dealing with school construction bond issues, the proposal would reduce by half the amount of taxes rural landowners would have to pay. This provision would not apply to their house, garage and one acre of land, but it would be utilized on their farmland or forestland, which could save rural landowners thousands of dollars depending on the number of acres they own.

Small business owners – particularly in Greater Minnesota - would also receive a break under this bill as it would remove the state general tax for all business property up to $500,000 in value, and all seasonal-recreational property up to $250,000 in value.

Business owners find this tax as a line item in their regular property tax statement, and local government sees no proceeds from the tax as all revenue is sent to Minnesota’s General Fund. In many cases, it is responsible for 25 to 40 percent of the business person’s property tax bill, and we believe that provision should be repealed altogether.

In addition, the Property Taxpayer Empowerment Act portion of the bill gives voters the opportunity to respond to a local government that they believe is being out of touch or fiscally irresponsible with their property tax dollars. If in December it is found that certified property tax rates are higher than they were during the previous year, taxpayers have the right to put the issue of their property tax levy increase on the Election Day ballot that following November. If the voters oppose the property tax increase decision, the local levy is reset to the amount that was utilized by the local government during the previous year. If it's approved, nothing changes.

I believe this provision will ensure that the will of the taxpayers is being recognized and carried out by their city and county officials.

Finally, the bill would require that all special elections called by cities, counties and schools – excluding mail in ballots and issues surrounding statutory operating debt – will take place on Election Day. Making this change would ensure greater voter turnout and would save local governments, and taxpayers, an unnecessary expense.

People from across this state have complained to me about rising property tax rates and their belief that unwise local government spending is part of the reason their rates are on the rise. With this legislation we are addressing both of these concerns and I am hopeful the end result leads to more money in the wallets of hardworking Minnesotans.