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Disaster relief - but not tax relief - on special session agenda

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A special session will take place Sept. 9 to appropriate disaster relief funding for rebuilding damaged infrastructure and aiding cleanup efforts after storms hit Minnesota in June.

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Most of the damage occurred in 18 counties spanning the western, central and southern parts of the state. The damage total is estimated to be $18 million. The state will pay 25 percent and receive a 75-percent match from the federal government.

Minnesota’s commitment will come from various pots of money in state agencies. This money will go toward repairing damaged public buildings, roads, bridges, etc., along with cleanup of trees and rubbish.

I had hoped the state could provide its $4.5 million or so in relief without having the Legislature convene in St. Paul, sparing taxpayers the expenses of a special session. That proved to not be possible this time, but I would like to discuss the pros and cons of establishing such a framework for similar future cases.

Storm relief will be the only item on the agenda, although many of us in the minority had hoped we could enact some tax relief while the special session is taking place.

In particular, there were three new taxes Gov. Mark Dayton and fellow Democrats passed earlier this year that I would like to see immediately repealed: taxes on farm equipment repairs, warehousing and telecommunications. There is bipartisan support for repealing all three and it should be done now instead of waiting until 2014.

I voted against all three new taxes during the last regular session and continue to oppose them. The tax on farm equipment repairs especially deserved immediate cancellation. A harvest season is just around the corner and will take place before this tax can be reconsidered during the next regular session, which begins in February. This tax will cost farmers statewide an estimated $2 million per month, crimping their bottom line and jacking up consumer prices.

Even Dayton himself called this tax on farmers a “very bad mistake” during a recent ag event and said he was open to adding it to the special session agenda. In the end, this work was pushed off because Dayton and other Democrats could not decide how to account for the loss in revenue the repeal would cause.

Really, it is not difficult to find wasteful spending in the state budget we could cut to make up the difference and help our farmers. It’s everywhere.

I am pleased we will be able to provide disaster relief, but it would have been nice to provide tax relief as long as the Legislature is going to be back in St. Paul.

(Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Lake Shore, represents District 9A.)

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