Readers’ Views

Tax change immediate

To the Editor:

On Jan. 5, the Minnesota House of Representatives unanimously approved a measure that would provide $21.7 million in immediate tax relief to hardworking Minnesotans by conforming state tax provisions to that of the federal government.

This is good news for people who are ready to start working on their tax returns. This is the first step of our comprehensive tax relief efforts this session, and with this bill’s passage we can begin work on providing significant tax relief to millions of middle class Minnesotans.

Without quick approval of the federal tax conformity bill, Minnesotans who file their taxes early could face higher tax bills, a situation all lawmakers wanted to avoid. The Department of Revenue has noted that in order to avoid tax filing complications, the proposal needs to be signed into law before Jan. 11.

Some of the provisions in the tax conformity bill include tax deductions for higher education expenses and teacher reimbursement expenses; loan forgiveness on home foreclosures from being taxed at the state level; excluding compensation from taxable income for those who were wrongfully incarcerated; and eliminating the need for two sets of depreciation schedules for those who purchase work equipment.

State Rep. Bob Gunther,

R-Fairmont

Farmers need relief

To the Editor:

Minnesota farm communities are being hit by the perfect storm: low commodity prices, high land values and aging schools. It is not fair to stick farmers with big property tax bills or leave students with outdated classrooms. That is why we are proposing a tax credit to provide Minnesota farmers immediate relief from rising agricultural property taxes.

Minnesota students need the best possible schools. However, state school funding has not kept up with the needs of our students over the last 15 years. The deficit has forced many rural school districts to pass local property tax levies to fund basic needs like building improvements and classroom technology. And school district levies have fallen disproportionately on farmers in communities without significant high-value land.

For family farmers, like David Kragnes, the cost of levies has been significant. David, his mother, and three sisters raise soybeans and corn on a 1,300 acre farm in Felton. In 2015, voters in the Moorhead School District passed a $78 million levy to pay for new school construction. Afterward, David said, his property taxes increased roughly $4 per acre, or an additional $2,600 per year for the acreage within the Moorhead district.

David is not the only Minnesota farmer struggling with high property taxes. Between 2010 and 2015, 108 districts passed levies to pay for building or equipment expenses. Overall, property taxes have increased 114 percent for Minnesota farmers over the last decade.

In the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School District, farmers would have paid 64 percent of the $31 million price tag on renovations to local school buildings. And in Barnesville, farmers would have paid for 74 percent of the $35 million levy. These levies would have increased property taxes by about $10 to 14 per acre. For 160 acres of farmland, that translates to a $1,600 to $2,200 tax hike per year for 20 to 30 years.

The heavy burden makes it challenging for rural schools to secure the funding they need for basic needs. In 2016, the majority of levy referendums put to rural voters failed, while the majority posed to city voters passed. This puts students in school districts like Barnesville and Dilworth, where referendums failed, at a disadvantage to their metro peers.

Our tax credit plan would cover 40 percent of property taxes attributable to school district debt levies for Minnesota farmers. Approximately 74,000 farmers would be eligible for the credit, which would save them nearly $34 million in property taxes.

There is a lot of talk about partisan divisions in our state and country, but this tax credit is something we all should be able to agree on this year. Please contact your legislator. Urge them to support this ag property tax credit and provide Minnesota farm families the relief they need.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith

State Rep. Paul Marquart

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