Disaster relief for Minnesota, but no tax relief

BY STATE SEN. DAVID OSMEK

DISTRICT 33

The Legislature met in St. Paul for a special session to address disaster relief in 18 counties that were hit by severe storms, high winds and flooding between June 20 and 26. I’m glad we came together to provide disaster relief. We have a rich tradition of supporting Minnesota communities.

The damage estimate for Minnesota from the storm is $17.9 million. President Barack Obama signed a federal disaster declaration, which paved the way for federal aid for recovery and rebuilding efforts and will contribute approximately $13.4 million. The state’s match is $4.5 million or 25 percent. These funds will be available to local governments for their emergency work including repair or replacement of facilities damaged in the storms, debris removal, protective measures and repair of roads, bridges and water control faculties. Money for the state’s contribution will come from transferring unused funds from previous state disasters.

During discussions on what also would be included in the special session, Republicans led the effort in repealing three newly created taxes that are creating a man-made tax policy disaster in Minnesota. During negotiations, Democrats and Gov. Dayton refused to compromise and refused to consider repeal of these three taxes during the special session.

There is clear, broad bipartisan support to repeal these taxes. Members of both parties introduced dozens of bills during the special session to repeal these business-to-business taxes. I signed onto three bills during the special session to eliminate the new warehousing, commercial equipment repair and telecommunications tax increases. The equipment repair tax increases the cost for farmers, loggers, miners and other hardworking Minnesotans to maintain and update machines they use every day. The telecommunications tax will increase the cost for those in greater Minnesota from even accessing high speed internet. The warehousing tax will drive up the cost of virtually all goods that pass through a storage facility.

These onerous taxes are standing in the way of a healthier Minnesota economy by raising prices on everyday necessities purchased by everyone. The governor’s own fiscal analysts stated that 90 percent of these taxes will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for milk, bread and other goods and services.

Let’s make one thing very clear: The DFL-controlled Legislature voted to impose all these taxes in May and Dayton signed them into law. They also, at least for the next 15 months, are the only ones who have the power to repeal them. Can’t we afford not to blow over $80 million in tax dollars on new local government aid (which is now proving not to reduce property taxes) or millions more on tree museums or community gardens?

As I did this year in St. Paul, I will continue to stand up for hardworking taxpayers and work to fix mistakes made last session. Government can make do with less, but only if you demand that it do so.

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