Senate budget bills invest in property tax relief, nursing home rates

Now that we are in the last few weeks of the 2013 Legislative Session, lawmakers are moving many bills off the floor. Most of the Senate’s budget bills as well as the Senate tax plan have passed off the floor. Currently we are working out differences with corresponding House bills in the necessary conference committees.
One of the major investments made by both the Senate’s education finance bill and the tax bill is in property tax relief. Up to $450 million is provided under the Senate tax proposal alone.
Over the past decade, Minnesotans have seen a $4 billion increase in property taxes. Property taxes have skyrocketed while household incomes have taken a big hit. The relief provided by the Senate tax bill begins alleviating the property tax burden Minnesota homeowners have carried for too long. It is estimated that under this proposal, Greater Minnesota homeowners will see an average $100 cut in their property taxes.
A major part of this property tax relief is from increases and reform to Local Government Aid. Not only is an additional $80 million going to LGA, but the bill provides a fairer formula that stabilizes LGA funding. Without formula reform, 640 cities are scheduled to receive LGA cuts next year. Many of our cities would be subject to LGA cuts without this proposed reform. However, under Senate’s tax plan, no city is allowed to receive an aid decrease next year.
Additionally, support is given to cities and counties through a sales tax exemption on their state purchases. This exemption results in $200 million in savings that will no longer be passed onto property tax payers.
The Senate Health and Human Services finance bill was also recently passed off the floor and sent to conference committee. The Senate’s plan makes key investments in the providers and services for our senior population. By 2020, Minnesotans over the age of 65 will outnumber schoolchildren. Therefore, it is vital that we take the necessary steps to ensure our system is ready.
One of these necessary steps is nursing home re-basing, which has not occurred in more than 20 years. Nursing home re-basing provides a more equitable payment system that will target state dollars to nursing homes that cannot currently meet their costs and are most at risk of a financial emergency. Under this bill, more than $20 million is invested in nursing home re-basing. All of the nursing homes in our district would see increased aid under this bill. It is beyond time for the state to invest in our nursing homes and re-basing is a solid first step in the right direction.
As conference committees wrap up, final budget bills will come to the Senate floor for a final vote. The Senate has brought forth proposals that will have positive outcomes for Minnesota. As always, please feel free to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns.

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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