Tax bill includes cuts to Austin, Mower County

This week marks six weeks before the legislature and the Governor must agree on a budget deal to complete the legislative session by May 23, the constitutional deadline. One of those weeks will be reserved for observation of Easter and Passover, which really leaves five weeks to complete our work.

The Senate and House finished passing budget bills through the respective chambers this week. Next week, conference committees will begin meeting to resolve differences between the two bills so they then can be negotiated with Governor Mark Dayton’s budget plan.

The Tax Bill was the final piece of the Senate budget plan passed this week. I didn’t vote for this bill because it included a $1.1 million cut in state aids and credits that are delivered to Austin. In addition, Mower County will receive a $532,899 cut.

Our smaller towns also get hit: a $14,887 reduction for Adams; a $12,817 cut to Brownsdale; $24,471 for Grand Meadow; $22,050 for LeRoy; $8,460 for Lyle. These aren’t million-dollar cuts like Austin is receiving, but for small towns with relatively small budgets, this is a big burden to ask these cities to take on.

The non-partisan Department of Revenue estimates at least half of cuts in state aids to local governments are levied back in the form of property taxes. That means this tax bill that passed this week will deliver $644 million in property tax increase to every Minnesota homeowner and business owner over the next three years. Property taxes already have spiked $3 billion in the last eight years: How much is enough?

Our local cities and counties have been very vocal about how these cuts impact our communities. Austin – and cities across the state – have made very tough decisions about reducing staff and cutting back on services to save money in recent years. When million-dollar cuts keep coming down from the state year after year, however, there comes a point when these types of cuts aren’t enough. Cities and counties are forced to ask property tax payers to help fill the gap so core services, such as police and fire protection, don’t suffer.

Minnesota is facing a $5 billion budget deficit, and we all know it is going to take tough decisions to reach that point. Governor Dayton has proposed a budget that addresses the shortfall but also includes zero cuts to cities and counties. He is attempting to preserve local resources and, instead, focus on state-level cuts that will not pass on costs to local property tax payers.

I am very hopeful that more lawmakers will begin to realize the harm that state aid cuts do to their communities so we can come together and agree on a better solution. It’s dishonest and unfair to continually ask our communities – and local property tax payers – to take care of the state’s budget problems.

As conference committees begin to meet, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions about the budget process or anything else, at: sen.dan.sparks@senate.mn; 651-296-9248; Room 19 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.

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Senator Dan Sparks
Dan Sparks represents District 27, which includes all or portions of Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Mower, and Steele counties in the southeastern part of the state.

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