By Roman Witucki, Guest columnist
At the start of Minnesota’s 2013 Legislative Session, Democrats made a promise of investing in education, balancing the state budget in an honest way and providing property tax reform. Leaders of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party delivered on all three.
Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers made a historic investment in education. Research shows that giving children a solid start to their education is best for the long run, so Dayton and DFL leaders put money into early childhood programs and free all-day kindergarten for all students. They also invested in higher education; students at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will see a two-year tuition freeze.
Instead of borrowing from schools or emptying cash reserves, Dayton and the DFL balanced the state’s two-year budget with a reliable source of funding. Minnesota’s top 2 percent of taxpayers, 54,000 people with an average salary of $617,000 a year, will pay a little more in taxes.
After more than a decade of property tax increases under the Republicans’ “no new taxes” form of government, property taxes have gone up 86 percent. In 2011, property taxes increased by $92 million, but in 2006, property taxes increased by $507 million.
This placed a burden on low- and middle-income Minnesotans. Thanks to action taken during the 2013 legislative session by Dayton and DFL legislators, property taxes are projected to decrease by $121 million.
Under the DFL’s actions, more than 550,000 Minnesota households will benefit from DFL efforts to turn the tide on property tax increases. This includes relief for both homeowners and renters. What does this look like?
• More than 79,000 renting households will see an average $152 increase in their Renters’ Credit refunds;
• More than 309,000 home-owning households will receive an average $221 increase in their refunds; and
• Another 30,000 renting households and 112,000 home-owning households are now eligible for a property tax refund.
In addition, legislators increased Local Government Aid (LGA) to local units of government by $80 million and the County Program Aid by $40 million, and also reinstated township aid by $10 million.
The Legislature also helped local units of government with a sales tax exception. That means local units of government can collect less in property taxes from residents. It is expected to reduce local government expenses by about $172 million.
I’d also like to remind area residents to apply for their property tax refunds. The deadline to apply was Aug. 15, but homeowners and renters have a one-year grace period to apply for their 2013 refund. To find out if you qualify for a refund and for information on how to apply, go to www.revenue.state.mn.us and search for “Property Tax Refund.”
Going into the 2013 legislative session, Dayton and DFL leaders made a number of promises to Minnesotans, and they kept their word. Communities and individuals in Morrison County will benefit from this work. Dayton promised to “Build a Better Minnesota” and with the help of a DFL-led Legislature, that is what he’s doing.
Roman Witucki, Little Falls, is the chair of the Morrison County DFL.