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Lawmakers Should Not Widen Gaps in Property Tax Burdens, Say Mayors Kautz and Maguire

Suburban homeowners pay bigger share of income compared to those in Greater Minnesota

Editor's Note: This column was written by Mike Maguire and Elizabeth Kautz. Maguire is Mayor of Eagan and chair of the Municipal Legislative Commission Board, and Kautz is Mayor of Burnsville, board member of the Municipal Legislative Commission, and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

For years, we’ve been told Greater Minnesota communities needed to be specially protected from property tax increases because property taxes hit wallets in their communities harder than in ours.

But a report from the Minnesota Department of Revenue shows these long-held assumptions are not true. Homeowners in the Twin Cities metro area pay a 39% higher share of their income to property taxes than their Greater Minnesota counterparts.

That fact is revealed in the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s “Residential Homestead Property Tax Burden Report” released earlier this year. It’s a myth-buster of a report, providing hard evidence that property tax burdens in the Twin Cities metro area are more onerous than in Greater Minnesota.

This comparison between homeowners with the same income, regardless of where they live, shows that metro area property taxpayers devote 3.19% of their income to property taxes compared to just 2.30% in Greater Minnesota.

As legislators and Governor Dayton grapple with a $5 billion budget deficit, there’s no question cuts will be made. We believe when lawmakers and the Governor make those cuts, they should be mindful of these property tax inequities and do everything possibleto make the situation better, not worse.

If legislators hold to the outdated narrative that’s been spun at the State Capitol for years–that Greater Minnesota can’t afford to absorb any cuts in state programs–they run the risk of widening, not narrowing, the gap. The facts show that Twin Cities area taxpayers actually subsidize the costs of Greater Minnesota services through a variety of ways. And now we know that property tax burdens in the metro area are higher than in outstate.

To help educate citizens and legislators about this inequity the Municipal Legislative Commission (MLC), a coalition of 16 suburban communities including more than 834,000 residents and 529,000 employees, recently launched a website and educational campaign. You can learn more about it at our new website: www.PropertyTaxFairness.com.

With the legislature set to adjourn in late May, legislators will be making important decisions over the coming weeks. Take some time and reach out to our area legislators–tell them we need property tax fairness and ask what they’re doing to make it happen.

State changes to property tax relief programs and local government aid payments could have a major impact on our disproportionate property tax burdens. Lawmakers should take this opportunity to make things more fair.

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