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House DFL calls for increasing property tax refunds for 1 million

Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont, who was elected co-chair of the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Sports Facilities, watches as Duluth Sen. Roger Reinert talks at the first meeting Tuesday, April 2, 2013. The other co-chair is Sen. Bobby Joe Champion of Minneapolis. (Forum News service photo by Danielle Killey)

ST. PAUL — Almost 1 million Minnesotans would receive larger property tax refunds, or their first refunds, under a House Democratic proposal.

Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, said the House plan would establish the homestead credit refund, spending $250 million to replace existing homeowner tax refunds and expand a renters’ refund. More than 300,000 homeowners would get bigger refunds; that is 75 percent of those who file for refunds.

Davnie said the average homeowner’s refund would rise by $212.

Also, 100,000 more homeowners would be eligible for a refund, and the state would attempt to persuade more to apply.

The average renter would get $179 more a year. Property tax relief would be made available to 340,000 renters.

“Providing comprehensive property tax relief will put more money in the pockets of middle-class Minnesotans and help move our state forward on more sustainable and reliable financial ground,” Davnie said.

Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said Democrats had promised to reinstate the market value homestead credit that a GOP-led Legislature ended two years ago.

“They have reneged on that promise,” Torkelson said. “The homestead credit refund is simply a renaming of the property tax refund program that has been in existence for a number of years.”

Stadium funding on tap

Minnesota lawmakers who oversee public sports venues plan to soon address lower-than-expected electronic pull tab revenues set to pay for construction of a new Vikings stadium.

“There’s a great deal of concern in the community,” Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, said of the lagging funds.

Legislative Commission on Minnesota Sports Facilities members agreed at their first meeting Tuesday to focus an upcoming meeting mainly on the revenue issue.

“That’s something we’ll have to wrestle with in real time,” said commission co-chairman Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis.

Republican Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont will be co-chairwoman.

Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, said the stadium project is on track so far, with the first $50 million coming from the Vikings as planned.

She said it was anticipated the new e-pull tabs program would take some time to ramp up.

So far, the state has raised less than $2 million from the electronic games. Projections show expected revenue of about $23 million next year and $28 million in 2015, a $46 million drop from earlier estimates.

Kelm-Helgen said she is confident the stadium will be built “on time and on budget.” Construction is expected to start in October.

Vet homes debated

A pair of new Minnesota veterans’ homes received preliminary approval Tuesday in a House committee, but without funding and only after a study is prepared about where future homes are needed.

Some lawmakers ripped a proposal to place a veterans’ nursing home in the Bemidji area.

Republican Reps. Mary Liz Holberg of Lakeville and Sarah Anderson of Plymouth said they feared that opening more veterans’ homes could hurt private nursing homes. However, Michael Gallucci of the state Veterans

Affairs Department said most nursing homes have difficulty getting federal money for veterans.

Some lawmakers also complained that there is no proof that the Bemidji area is where a veterans’ home is most needed.

“I have all kinds of counties that support this,” said Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, but added that he was not ready to defend the

location Tuesday.

“The northwest region is in dire need for that,” Gallucci added, but admitted “there never has really been a blueprint where we should build homes.”

Chairman Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, of the House Ways and Means Committee, convinced his colleagues to approve a study about where new homes should be opened.

The Ways and Means Committee approved the Bemidji and Brainerd homes, with a Montevideo home already in the works. However, before any new home is built it must get money from legislative public works committees.

Tourism ‘uncompetitive’

Minnesota’s tourism marketing spending is stuck at 1990 levels, Terry Mattson, president of Visit Duluth, told the House Taxes Committee on Tuesday.

“That makes us very uncompetitive,” he said, making it difficult to even keep up Minnesotans’ in-state tourism.

Neighboring states spend far more than Minnesota provides, Mattson said. He told the committee that the state “needs to spend money to make money.”

Mattson’s testimony came during debate on a bill to dedicate the 6.2 percent tax on rental vehicles to tourism marketing. The committee will consider the bill as part of an overall tax bill.

Danielle Killey contributed to this report.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.