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Property-Tax Relief is Unrealized Goal of Lawmakers
The Minnesota Citizens' Forum
By Michael Khoo
May 13, 1999
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Previous Forums

February 15 1999

Spending the Surplus
January 11 1999


The Budget Page

With the legislative session nearly over and the major tax and spending issues decided, elected officials now have something to show for their efforts. Last night, House Speaker Steve Sviggum, Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, and Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock were electronically linked to communities across Minnesota to discuss the results of this year's session. The Citizens' Forum event was sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio, the Star Tribune, and KTCA television.

DURING LAST YEAR'S ELECTIONS, the state's burgeoning budget surpluses were a hot topic. Republicans, DFLers, and the Reform Party Governor all entered office intent on returning the money and providing some sort of tax relief for Minnesotans. The negotiating came down to the wire, but Senator Moe says the budget deal reached earlier this week is one all sides can live with. " And like any package you put together, there are some things that you like, some things that you might not like, but overall, it's a decent package,"Moe said.

Steve Sviggum
A decent package, perhaps, but one that's not completely gelled. For example, the compromise targets $1.6 billion in tax relief over the next biennium. Roughly two-thirds of that is already designated for across-the-board, half-percentage point cuts in the income tax. The details of how to apportion the remaining money have yet to be determined. Speaker Sviggum says the money could be used for additional income-tax relief. But that's not all. "And everything is in the mix," said Sviggum. "But in the mix, I need to tell you, there's going to be some property-tax relief or reform in there. We have the sick tax -- the provider tax -- to look at, which I think is a very erroneous tax. The marriage penalty needs to be looked at."

Roger Moe
As if those options weren't enough to sort out, Governor Ventura heavily favors reducing automobile license-plate registration fees. And according to Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock, he may be a little cooler towards major property tax cuts." I think the Governor is certainly supportive of a property tax relief plan, but we've provided significant relief to property tax in the last couple of years," Wheelock maintained.

"And I think what he would like to do is, before we pump more money into providing relief to a structure that really doesn't make any sense anymore, we should fix that first, and then talk about providing relief as part of fixing that system."

The Minnesota Citizens' Forum, sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio, the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis and KTCA-TV, provides a vehicle for people to engage in a discussion of public issues. Through these forums, reporters and editors were able to focus candidates during 1998 on issues that are most important to our listeners, viewers, and readers. With the Ventura administration underway, the Minnesota Citizens Forum will allow elected officials to stay in touch with the opinions of the voters.

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