Democrats blast GOP for property tax increases, again

Democrats make it clear they blame Republicans for rising property taxes, and will do that even louder in next year’s campaigns.

They hope the charge sticks this time. Democratic-Farmer-Laborite candidates for years have said GOP budget cuts, or lack of tax increases, have forced local governments to raise property taxes.

It is happening again after a the Republican-controlled Legislature passed and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton approved a new law that changed the homestead market value credit program, which basically cut state payments to local governments. Many local officials are making up for those cuts by raising property taxes by the amount they were cut.

Now, property owners are receiving their truth in taxation statements that show how much their taxes are going up.

“Minnesota homeowners and small businesses are about to pay the price for the legislative budget deal brokered by the majorities in the Legislature last summer,” Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, wrote in a column. “While they claimed loudly that the budget shortfall was solved without raising taxes, this is simply not true.”

Sieben admitted that filling a $5 billion budget gap was hard, but she said raising taxes on the rich would have worked better.

In his own column, Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, said the eliminated program reduced taxes for 95 percent of homeowners.

“Rural Minnesota homeowners receive 55 percent of the state’s homestead credit and nearly 60 percent of the $270 million in property tax increases will be shouldered by rural Minnesota,” Persell wrote. “Folks in our area have been squeezed enough in recent years, and many — especially those on fixed incomes — can’t afford higher property taxes.”

While Democrats hope to use the tax increases as a campaign issue next year, some Republicans tried to get out in front of the situation.

House Tax Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, announced that Republicans plan to provide $80 million for people whose property taxes rose more than 12 percent.

Davids admitted, after being asked twice, that the money could result in rewarding local officials who raise property taxes the most, not a position Republicans normally would support.

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