Last week, Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Department of Transportation announced that ten highway construction projects will receive funding through the state’s new Corridors of Commerce program. The projects will strengthen Minnesota’s transportation system by adding capacity and improving the movement of freight across the state. Included on the list of projects was the addition of passing lanes to Hwy 23 between Willmar and Interstate 90. Work is expected to start in 2016.
The fact that this project was selected is a credit to the hard work and advocacy from constituents, local officials, legislators, and businesses. This is real progress for Highway 23 and transportation in our region, but we know there is more work to do. There are a number of critical transportation projects — including the ‘Fill the Gap’ project on the other side of Highway 23 — that need to move forward. I will continue to advocate for the transportation needs of our communities.
Unemployment Tax Cut Will Save Minnesota Businesses $346.5 Million
Minnesota businesses will save $346.5 million over two years starting in 2014, thanks to a cut in unemployment insurance taxes approved earlier this year by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Dayton. Effective Jan. 1, 2014, for-profit employers will pay lower taxes for funding the unemployment insurance trust fund, which provides temporary jobless benefits to workers who are laid off.
More than 120,000 Minnesota businesses will be positively impacted by this tax cut, which may be the largest business tax cut in state history. This is a responsible, targeted tax cut that will provide businesses with more money that they can then use to hire new workers, expand their business, and grow our economy.
The trust fund went into deficit during the Great Recession because of growing demand for unemployment insurance benefits. But with the state economy improving and new claims for unemployment insurance benefits at their lowest level in nearly a decade in Minnesota, the trust fund now has reserves of $1.2 billion, enabling officials to reduce the tax rate on businesses.
Currently, Minnesota businesses pay unemployment insurance taxes on the first $29,000 of annual wages per employee. Effective Jan. 1, the base tax rate they pay on that amount will be reduced from 0.5 percent to 0.1 percent. An additional 14 percent assessment that employers paid on their total unemployment insurance tax bill also will be eliminated starting in 2014.
Preliminary Property Tax Levies
Preliminary property tax levies have been released, giving us an early picture at local property tax rates. For our area, the preliminary levies break down as follows: Kandiyohi County has proposed a 1.2 percent increase, Willmar has left their preliminary levy flat, New London has proposed a 2.4 percent increase, Spicer has proposed a 4 percent increase, Pennock has left their levy flat, Atwater has proposed a 4 percent increase, and Kandiyohi has proposed a 4.5 percent increase.
The Willmar Public School District has proposed a 27.2 percent cut in their levy, New London-Spicer School District has proposed a 6 percent decrease, and A.C.G.C has proposed a 4 percent decrease. There are other township and special district levies that can also play a role in your property taxes.
These preliminary levies are the maximum that can be levied — local governments can lower these before they are finalized in December.
After years of significant property tax increases — an 86 percent increase over the last decade and the elimination of the Homestead Credit in 2011 — the legislature invested in middle class property tax relief by providing direct relief to homeowners and renters and restoring the state’s commitment to cities, counties, and school districts through increased state aid.
In particular, the legislature delivered $140 million in property tax relief directly to Minnesotans through the expanded property tax refund program and changes to the renter’s credit. Over 500,000 Minnesotans will see additional property tax relief as a result. It’s important to keep in mind that the preliminary levy figures do not account for this direct property tax relief.
A homeowner receiving a property tax refund in Kandiyohi County will receive an average refund increase of $173 and 2,000 more homeowners will qualify. A renter in Kandiyohi County who qualifies for the Renter’s Credit will receive an average credit increase of $102 and 450 additional renters will qualify.
I am optimistic that in the coming weeks and months local cities and counties will use the tools that the legislature provided this session to reduce property taxes. If you are interested in more details on your local property taxes, I would encourage you to attend your local Truth-in-Taxation hearing. You can find the date and location of those meetings on your property tax statement.
If you have any questions, concerns or feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I appreciate hearing from you. You can reach me at 651-296-6206 or at email@example.com
Thank you for the honor of serving you in the Minnesota House of Representatives.