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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Thursday, February 10, 2022

ST. PAUL – State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said a pair of bills making headway at the Capitol would be good news for local business owners and county governments saddled with abandoned, blemished properties.


Torkelson said an unnecessary tax increase on local business owners will take effect on March 15 unless the legislature acts. 


Record-setting unemployment claims depleted Minnesota's Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund at the start of the pandemic. This resulted in a debt of more than $1 billion to the federal government, which serves as the backstop when states deplete their UI funds. To make up for that loss, payroll tax rates will increase in a month on business owners by 15% or more to replenish the fund. 


“With a $7.7 billion budget surplus, and more than $1 billion in federal COVID relief funding waiting for allocation, there is no reason to be raising taxes on anyone,” Torkelson said. 


In the Minnesota House Workforce and Business Development Policy and Finance Committee, a bill was heard recently that would allocate more than $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funding to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund. 


“If the Minnesota House follows the Minnesota Senate’s lead by approving a stand-alone bill that eliminates this unnecessary tax increase, it would likely pass unanimously,” Torkelson said. “Our local business owners have struggled mightily over the past two years, and we need to act quickly before they are hit with another senseless financial burden.”


Torkelson is carrying a separate bill that would assist counties with tax forfeited properties.  The bill passed out of the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Committee this week and will move on to the Local Government Division of the State Government Committee for further consideration. The bill would give counties the option of passing a resolution allowing them to hold funds from the sale of a tax-forfeited property in order to address clean-up and maintenance costs. 


“This would give counties more flexibility in rehabilitating blighted properties, while eliminating an eyesore and other potential headaches facing the neighboring landowners,” Torkelson said.