By Rep. Paul Anderson
By now, you've probably heard or read about the major accomplishments of the recently completed legislative session. Compromise did occur, as the two sides finally came together and reached agreement on a new budget. We then came back for a marathon one-day special session to pass all the spending bills and send them on to the governor.
In addition to all the headline-making news about budgets and taxes, many other items were also included in those bills. We passed fire remediation for the city of Melrose, with close to a half million dollars available to assist the city in its rebuilding efforts after the fire on Main Street several years ago. Also included was an exemption from paying the state sales tax on materials used in that reconstruction. These items were included in the massive tax bill.
We also got legislation passed which will help the city of Albany and the Kraft-Heinz cheese plant located there. Plans for an expansion of the facility were put on hold because additional space was needed to allow that expansion to take place. It wasn't a large area, less than an acre, between the location of the current plant and the bike path that goes through town. The land is a former railroad bed and belongs to MnDOT. Folks from that department were good to work with as they crafted the legal description of the land needing to be transferred. I had the bill language included in both the transportation bill, along with what's called the Lands Bill, so we had a better chance of its final passage.
With the transfer of this narrow strip of land, the way has been cleared for the expansion to take place. It's a major addition to the plant and will allow more production, which is also good news for the dairy industry.
I also carried legislation for two area communities, whose voters last fall approved local option sales taxes. Both Glenwood and Sauk Centre passed those measures, which then had to go before the Legislature for final approval. I am personally not a big fan of such local taxes, mainly because it creates winners and losers. Cities or counties with large retail sales bases do very well with such a tax, however, in smaller jurisdictions, there's usually not enough activity to generate the revenue needed to make much of a difference.
There were close to 20 applications for this type of local taxing authority that were heard before the Property Tax Division during this past session. If these numbers continue, I look for changes in how these requests are approved in the future. They may need to be approved by the Legislature first before the question is put on the local ballot for voters to approve.
In future columns, I will have more to say about smaller, more local provisions that were passed this year. Many of these don't make headlines, but are important none the less.
The challenges with farming have continued this spring. Difficult planting conditions caused by too much rain have dragged planting far past its optimum dates. I finished up on soybeans last week, having to go around wet spots in fields that simply didn't dry out. Even the fields that got planted earlier had issues. In some cases, the ground got so hard that the small seedlings had a difficult time in poking through the crusted earth. I was ready to work up one field again because of the hard ground, but amazingly, enough plants eventually poked through to make the stand count acceptable, especially at this late date.