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How will Rep. Runbeck's proposed property tax freeze plan fit with 'all-cuts' budget?

It’s unclear how a Republican proposal to freeze local property taxes at 2010 levels will square with the expected GOP “all-cuts” budget bill that will be unveiled next month.

Democrats have long argued that Local Government Aid cuts -- which were included in a previous GOP bill that aimed to tackle about one-sixth of Minnesota’s $6.2 billion projected budget deficit -- will result in a big increase in property tax levies by county and city boards.

For that reason, Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal, released earlier this month, would hold LGA harmless from cuts.

But Rep. Linda Runbeck, House Property and Local Tax Committee chairwoman, has put forward legislation calling for a two-year moratorium on property tax increases that embodies the Republican response to DFL complaints: Local governments should live within their means and only provide core services.

To the GOP, that means property tax hikes are unnecessary.

“I’m not really convinced we’ve really reached a point where government is streamlined,” Runbeck said.

“Tell us you need money and we’ll just give it to you,” Runbeck said sarcastically of the state’s traditional stance on LGA funding.

But a train of county advocacy organization representatives Thursday testified before Runbeck’s committee, which heard her proposal for the first time.

“This is the sort of micromanagement that city officials hate,” said Minnesota Inter-County Association Executive Director Keith Carlson.

Advocates painted a picture of frugal city and county boards. They said many of Minnesota’s local governments froze or cut property taxes this year, and others raised levies by less than 5 percent.

Because many local governments didn’t raise levies to the state maximum for 2011, the bill would penalize cities that chose to spare residents with lower taxes, they said.

But Runbeck’s proposal carries a weighty number for Republicans: The bill would shield Minnesotans from roughly $240 million in projected property tax increases over the next biennium, according to House research.

Cities are trying to “protect their turf and their little pot of money,” Runbeck said of local government advocates, including representatives for sheriff’s and fire departments.

For flexibility, the bill provides certain exceptions to the freeze. If an additional levy is put on a ballot or if a city needs more money for a bonding project started before June, they have the option to raise property taxes.

Runbeck said the Republican leadership is aware of her proposal but that she hasn’t discussed it with the Dayton administration.

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said a Republican budget bill would surface in the coming weeks. Because of the current fluidity of her bill, Runbeck wasn’t sure what the budget bill’s impact would be on her proposal.

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Comments (4)

So, my GOP friends, how does this proposal square with your stated ideal of keeping local decisions local? Since when is it okay for the Statehouse to tell local governments how much money they can raise and how to spend it? Doesn't this take away the power of local citizens to use the democratic process to determine how things are managed in their localities? Isn't this the same kind of "power grab" we always hear about from you when the shoe is on the other foot? Looking forward to hearing from you.

So much for local control. Nothing demonstrates the Republican agenda of dismantling government as well at these kinds of proposals. It's taken them 30 years to get here, but they can cram small government down your throat.

All this to save the richest Minnasotans from a progressive income tax and "starve the beast" in preparation for privitization.

Thank the churchs and their voters for the service to the rich. So much for Christ-like behavior.

Cities and counties forced to hold the line on costs
and services? How about that as a job creation strategy?
Potholes in the streets and and highways don't get fixed,
get bigger and bigger. Drivers have to replace tires,
axles, CV joints, front end alignments; good for the
economy! And the cost gets shifted to the end-user as
usual! Oh wait. Fuel prices are on the way up, people
may drive less, and this won't work with a dramatic
decrease on the wear and tear on our roads as we change
our behavior to be more low impact bike/pedestrian