Help hold the line on property taxes at the Legislature

With only 10 days to go until the end of the State legislative session, there’s a lot at stake for property-tax payers. I’m working on a lot of critical issues at once, but one thing holds them all together: holding the line on property taxes. And you can help. 

Closed-pension reform. As I wrote on Wednesday, there is good news: after years of work, a bill has been introduced to reform the closed pensions that have been the source of significant property-tax increases. The bill still hasn’t had a hearing, but when it does I’ll be there to testify on taxpayers’ behalf. In the meantime, we still need your help. Contact your legislators and tell them you support the strongest possible bill for taxpayers: one that provides a significant and long-overdue cut to residents’ and businesses’ property-tax burden, ensures cost-effective and transparent management, and puts an end to the funds’ many conflicts of interest. (If you’re not sure who represents you at the Capitol, go here and just enter your address.) 

Local Government Aid. Just last night, the Legislature agreed on a bill that would eliminate all Local Government Aid (LGA) for Minneapolis — not just cut it, but eliminate it entirely by 2014, starting with an $80 million cut this year. (That amount is nearly twice the size of the entire Fire Department.) This cut is just part of an unprecedented attack on Minnesota’s core cities, which are the economic engine of our state. 

We’ve been fighting back. Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and I have joined forces with business leaders and mayors across Minnesota, and they’re standing strong with us in defending LGA for all Minnesota cities. Governor Dayton is standing with us, too; please thank Governor Dayton for his support forMinneapolis taxpayers. 

Remember that LGA is not a handout: this year, we will send $367.5 million more in sales and commercial property taxes to the State of Minnesota than we will get back in LGA — and that’s if our LGA isn’t cut. If anything, Minneapolis helps keep Minnesota afloat

We know times are tough in Minnesota, but we’ve done our part: we’re spending 7% less than we did 10 years ago, with 1,000 fewer full-time positions. And we’ve kept our fiscal house in order: in the last 10 years, we’ve paid off $130 million in debt and restored the City’s AAA bond rating, which saves taxpayers money. 

Fighting tax increases. Last fall, the City Council and I made a decision to hold property taxes down by $10 million in 2012-13 by capping non-personnel spending in the old Neighborhood Revitalization Program while making sure that funding for ongoing neighborhood programs continues. As I wrote last week, a bill sponsored by Minneapolis Rep. Phyllis Kahn and Minneapolis Sen. Ken Kelash would drive property taxes higher by reversing our decision to lower your taxes. This bill has passed in committee but we’re still fighting hard against it, and we still need your help. Contact your legislators and tell them you oppose this $10 million tax increase

Stadiums and lower property taxes. On Monday, Council President Barb Johnson and I released a plan to lower property taxes by $50 million over 10 years as part of plan to build a new Vikings stadium on the Metrodome site, renovate theCity-ownedTargetCenter and removeTargetCenter debt from the property-tax rolls. 

I would not support any plan to just build a stadium for the Vikings, but this plan provides a significant public benefit: it finally gets us away from having to use property-tax dollars to pay forTargetCenter debt. That’s $5 million a year for the next 10 years that would have gone into paying debt that can go instead into lower property taxes for businesses and residents. It’s a solutionMinneapolis has long needed. 

We get a lower property-tax burden, a renovatedTargetCenterand a multi-purpose, world-class stadium by asking people who attend Vikings games to pay higher admission and parking fees, and by asking everyone who spends time inMinneapolis, regardless of where they live, to pay a little more in sales and consumption taxes. We also spur development and grow the tax base, which lessens the burden on everyone. 

I know opinions run strong on this issue and I respect them. I support this plan precisely because it brings down the property-tax burden on residents and businesses inMinneapolis.

You can help. When you told us last fall that your property taxes were too high, we heard you. Your voices made a difference then and they’re making a difference now. Please join City Council members and me now in these the last 10 days of the legislative session in fighting to hold the line on property taxes.

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