People on the Iron Range breathed a collective sigh of relief upon the release of the omnibus tax bill late Tuesday night, for it revealed that Governor Dayton had indeed made good on his promise to protect our property tax money from the clutches of greedy republicans eager to protect millionaires at our expense.
While we had been told it was off the table and we trusted the governor to keep his word, one is always a bit nervous until the final bill hits the floor. As you may recall, the Republicans wanted to steal $60 million of Iron Range property tax revenue from the Douglas J. Johnson Economic Protection Trust fund (DJJ). Thanks to the efforts of the governor and DFL leadership, that provision (which was an affront to democracy) was removed from the bill. Also gone was the freezing of the taconite tax escalator, a move that would have cost us millions in lost revenue.
While that was certainly good news for northeastern Minnesota, the parts of the bill that still remain are not so. Reductions in state aid will hit us a lot harder than the rest of the state; we have a lower tax base because so much of our land is publically owned. According to Sen.Tom Bakk (DFL-Tower), a homeowner in the taconite relief area will see a whopping 18.2% increase in property taxes. I suggest those slammed with such a big increase in property taxes send their bill to Sen. Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen), who insists the Republican tax bill will not cause an increase in property taxes. She was also one of the strongest proponents of both the raid on the DJJ fund and freezing the taconite tax. Ortman distinguished herself as one who either lacks the mental capacity or the desire to understand something as basic as revenue from the taconite tax is Iron Range property tax revenue, not something “extra” that belongs in the general fund, and that freezing the taconite tax at a time when mining company profits are at an all-time high is not fiscally responsible (and just plain dumb).
It is very obvious by their actions during the session that the Republicans intended to rob the Iron Range of everything they could. And our own Tea Party congressman, Chip Cravaack, ignored our plea to intervene on our behalf. A profound thanks to Governor Mark Dayton for holding firm in his stance that stealing our money was a deal breaker. Without him, our economic development fund, and our future, would have been gone with the wind.
We owe him a debt of gratitude.