House DFL leader visits Katherine I.

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 22, 2006

By Adam Hammer, staff writer

Since becoming Minnesota House DFL leader in June, Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher has been making her voice for change known throughout the state.

&8220;One of the things I’m finding is that folks really are looking for a new direction in the state, in particularly in the state&160; House,&8221; Kelliher said during a press conference Monday afternoon at Katherine Island in Albert Lea. &8220;I think we’ve really gotten away from Minnesota values that are important to folks in Minnesota every day.&8221;

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Kelliher, a lifelong Minnesotan who grew up on a dairy farm near Mankato, touted DFL House of Representatives District 27A candidate Robin Brown during her visit.

&8220;She’s going to bring her independence to the Legislature and really be able to change things,&8221; Kelliher said.

When it came to issues, Kelliher took aim at building on core Minnesota values including a strong kindergarten through grade 12 education system, a strong higher education system that is affordable and accessible, affordable state health care and transportation.

She pointed at rising property taxes &045; an issue that Albert Lea residents have witnessed firsthand &045; as a key area where a DFL majority in the House could make a difference and where tax compliance and tax fairness need to be implemented.

&8220;In the last four years, the property taxes in Albert Lea have increased by 100 percent,&8221; Kelliher said. &8220;That has resulted because of cuts to local government aid.&8221;

Since 2003, Albert Lea has seen overall property taxes increase by $2 million, Kelliher said. She cited $3.7 million in cuts from local government aid in the last four years in Albert Lea during that same time.

&8220;What we have to be clear about here is there’s a linkage between cuts to local government aid and the increases to property taxes and the fact that those were a choice on how to balance our state budget,&8221; Kelliher said.

Property taxes are soaring across the state primarily because since 2003, the governor and the Legislature have cut $832 million in property tax relief aid to cities and counties and the state has pushed $158 million of education costs down to the local school districts, Kelliher said.

To lower property taxes, the House DFL leader said the state needs to first examine its budget and make sure it is spending money that is in line with Minnesota values. From there, focus needs to be put on tax compliance and tax fairness issues, she said.

&8220;Tax compliance and corporate loopholes are really a matter of fairness for Minnesotans,&8221; Kelliher said. &8220;Each one of us pay our taxes every year, we do it without fail. And to know that people are not paying or are trying to avoid paying their fair share, I think it’s disturbing to a lot of Minnesotans.&8221;

Brown echoed Kelliher’s concerns regarding property taxes and building on the&160; other core issues of education, health care and transportation.

&8220;What I’ve found to be true is that every one of these issues are the ones that are being mentioned when I go door to door,&8221; Brown said.

Kelliher’s overall message seemed to be that change will be the most effective factor in going after these issues. She partially credits success over the last two years on restoring some of the lost local government aid and on education funding, clean water and health care to 13 Democrats having been elected in 2004.

&8220;These are really bread-and-butter issues to Minnesotans,&8221; Kelliher said. &8220;I grew up on a dairy farm so I know something about butter at least, I made a little bit of it as a kid. I think bread-and-butter issues are where Minnesotans want us to focus right now.&8221;