Guest Column: Over-collection of taxpayer dollars shows need for relief

Published 9:47 am Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Point of View by Steve Drazkowski

State Representative Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) is the chairman of the Minnesota House Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division, and will be the guest speaker at 6 p.m. Aug. 15 at the Freeborn County Republican party. The event is open to the public.

Breaking news from the State Capitol: Minnesota continues to extract far more tax dollars from its citizens than it needs.

Steve Drazkowski

Steve Drazkowski

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Actually, this isn’t breaking news at all; it is an old, regurgitated headline that garnered little attention from those who don’t consistently peer inside the Capitol fishbowl. Yet, despite the overwhelming will of the state Legislature, this tired act continues thanks to Governor Dayton.

On July 12, Minnesota’s Management and Budget Office announced that Minnesota’s General Fund receipts for fiscal year 2016 are estimated to total $230 million more than projected in February. Higher than expected corporate tax and other revenues led to the new total, despite the fact economic growth has weakened since the February forecast.

This money belongs to the people, not state government. With a fully-funded budget, state government does not need more of your tax dollars, nor should it want them.

Last May, with the approval of 89 percent of Republicans and Democrats who make up the Minnesota House and Senate, we approved a historic tax relief plan that would have benefited millions of Minnesotans. They include parents through an expansion of the working family tax credit and the childcare tax credit; Main Street business owners with the repeal of the commercial-industrial property tax off their first $100,000 of property value — which was expected to save the average business owner roughly $1,000 a year; farmers with some property tax relief from school bond levies; and college graduates with a student loan tax credit.

Yet, just as the people were getting ready for their long-awaited financial break, Governor Dayton chose to veto it. And while he claims he wants to hold a special session to address tax relief, he has also demanded that the legislature agree to fund a number of his pet projects, including Southwest Light Rail.

Holding tax relief hostage over another train for Minneapolis is a ridiculous notion to most Minnesotans, but that’s where the governor has put us. And people around the nation are beginning to notice.

Last year, Minnesota ranked first in CNBC’s “America’s Top States for Business” list. This year, Minnesota has fallen to fourth place. The reason? According to CNBC’s analysis, Minnesota ranks 35th in its Cost of Doing Business category, which it calls “an unfortunate consequence of taxes that are among the highest in the nation. Minnesota has the top individual income tax rate of 9.85 percent and the corporate tax rate is 9.8 percent. State and local sales tax are both 7.875 percent.”

CNBC also stated that “Gov. Mark Dayton claims that his state is high-tax, high-value, but job growth and the overall economy have slowed a bit in the last year.”

Governor Dayton is demanding that the legislature agree to an agenda before he’ll call a special session. Eighty-nine percent of the Legislature agrees on tax relief, so it’s my preference that he call a special session just for this proposal only, and he should call it now.

The talks between the governor and legislative leadership are ongoing, and the latest news we’ve heard has been positive. Let’s hope it continues, because we need to finally help the people of Minnesota — and improve our state’s economic condition — by calling a special session for tax relief.