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Change starts Nov. 6

October 10, 2012
Fairmont Sentinel

To the Editor:

As we approach Oct. 15, many people might be dreading the turning of the calendar in Minnesota because most of us have property taxes that are technically due on this date. Property taxes pay for many important local services, including roads, sewers, police, fire and snow removal. However, in recent years, we in Minnesota have seen our property taxes increase dramatically. In fact, property taxes have doubled in the last 10 years. What is the cause of this huge increase in the property tax burden we all pay?

First are the cuts to Local Government Aid (LGA) that the state provides to communities. This aid is especially critical to rural areas such as ours and acts as property tax relief. Every state budget includes less and less LGA funding. With less funding from the state comes an increase in property taxes just to keep the same level of services we expect from our local units of government. On a similar note are our schools, which have seen their funding delayed or reduced and have to make up the disparity with a reliance on levies and referendums.

Second, in the last legislative session, the Market Value Homestead Credit was eliminated. The Homestead Credit provided direct property tax relief to homeowners for more than 40 years, lowering property taxes by up to $304 for each home. Without this credit, 95 percent of us will see our property taxes rise. Are you a farmer, homeowner, senior, small business owner or renter? If so, the double whammy of cuts to LGA and the loss of the Homestead Credit means you saw your property taxes go up and then up again.

Property taxes have gotten so out of control that they are now the largest source of state revenue, surpassing the income tax. And it is even worse for rural communities like ours, where the property tax increase will be eight times higher than on comparable property in the metro area.

What can be done about these tax increases put upon us by incumbents, including Rep. Bob Gunther, in the Legislature? It's time for a new voice willing to speak out against policies that harm our communities and unfairly burden rural areas. It's time to get back to fiscal sanity. We need real leadership that sees increases in property taxes as a serious threat to our rural economic development and fights to keep our tax burden low.

We must bring back the Homestead Credit and bring property tax relief to homeowners, small businesses, farmers, and everyone else in our communities. We can't keep balancing the state's budget on the backs of hard-working, middle-class folk who are already stretched too thin. We need representation that works for all of us. And that change begins on Nov. 6.

Kevin Labenz

candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives, District 23A



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