This is technically the legislative offseason, but I still have been busy meeting with constituents and attending area meetings, including two forums on Tuesday.
One meeting was a discussion of what we can do to help our state operate better through more efficient practices and by creating an environment where small businesses can grow. We are in the process of compiling a package of “Reform 2.0” bills for the 2012 legislative session that will get us pointed in the right direction.
My goal for this meeting was to do more listening than talking, hearing what folks had to say about where we need improvements. Government red tape and regulations seems to be a consistent theme at these Reform 2.0 meetings. Small-business owners are saying they sometimes turn down high-dollar tax incentives because it takes up too much time and effort to reap the benefits. We passed legislation this year to streamline the permitting process, but we need to do far more to clear the way for our entrepreneurs to thrive and create jobs.
The other meeting I attended was hosted by the Kanabec County townships. I provided a recap of the 2011 legislative session. We entered the session facing a $6 billion shortfall and we all were asked to sacrifice in some way. And that’s what happened. No one is 100 percent satisfied with the final result; there is no way to justify the tobacco bonds or K-12 shift that was what was needed to get us out of the shutdown. That’s how our democracy works; it’s not always pretty, but we have two ideologies at work and that’s the way it will be for the foreseeable future.
Property taxes also was a topic I discussed with the townships, particularly how the old homestead tax credit was replaced with a market value homestead exclusion. The new program means, if you had a market value on your house of $76K, you could exclude $30,400 and that would translate into a $304 tax saving.
This is better than the old system because it comes on the front end directly to the taxpayer without having the state get involved with credits and aids that they hadn’t fully paid. This change was supported by League of Minnesota Cities, the Minnesota Inter-County Association and others. There may be some initial glitches in the changeover, but the new system will work out better by making the system more transparent and less complicated. We have the most complicated property tax system in the country and this is one helpful step toward correcting that problem.
Another important meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2 at the Pine County Courthouse in Pine City. I’ll be there, along with two other state Reps. who chair tax-related committees on which I serve. Greg Davids (taxes) and Linda Runbeck (property and local taxes) will join us to talk about taxes and answer any questions. All local elected officials are welcome to join us.