Legislative Final Stretch

The Legislature recessed for Easter/Passover break on April 5th and will reconvene Monday April 16th. We expect that they will move quickly to wrap up. Legislative leadership hopes to finish all their work by the end of April.

Two of our issues are still in process, Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) and Taxes.

On the tax front, both the House and the Senate have passed tax bills that include a phase-out of the State General Tax, also known as the State Business Property Tax. This tax was begun in 2001. It is a property tax on Commercial Industrial Property and, inexplicably, Seasonal Recreational Property. Currently the tax raises about $800 million a year, with cabins paying $40 million of that burden. Originally a portion of the State Business Property Tax was slated to go into an educational reserve account, but the year following enactment, the Legislature diverted the funds into the general account. As such this property tax, unlike all others, provides no revenue for local communities. The differences between the House and Senate versions of the tax bill will be settled in Taxes Conference Committee beginning on April 16th. We encourage all of you to write your legislators using the email form below in support of the phase out.

On the Aquatic Invasive Species front, our goal has been to pursue legislation to slow, or even stop the spread of AIS while simultaneously working to find a solution to control or even eradicate the pests from the waters they currently infest. Just before recess both the Senate and the House passed bills that do advance our goal, but fall short of establishing a comprehensive statewide plan. With intense lobbying and grassroots work, the House passed an amendment to increase the penalties for breaking AIS laws. Proposals to increase the AIS surcharge (average $5 for three year tab) have stalled, however. When the Legislature reconvenes, the House and Senate will form a conference committee to create one bill for approval by Governor Dayton.

The Legacy Funding bill, also passed just before recess, appropriates $4.7 million for the University of Minnesota AIS research facility and $7.5 million in 2012 to fund Asian carp barriers. This is one-time money. MSRPO is working on securing a reliable, ongoing source of funds to support AIS work. Currently property owners and lake associations spend millions of private dollars on inspection, decontamination and AIS mitigation work to protect Minnesota's public waters. While a partnership with local owners will be key to any successful AIS strategy, private owners cannot continue to carry the lion's share of the burden. MSRPO will continue to advocate for a strong AIS Plan that includes reliable, ongoing funding to protect our lakes and rivers.

While this session is nearly at a close, our work will only accelerate over the summer. It is clear that more needs to be done. After this session, MSRPO will be engaged in pushing both meaningful tax reform and a comprehensive statewide plan for AIS. Given the once-in-a-decade election of all Minnesota Senators and Representatives, we have a unique opportunity to advance these dual agendas.

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to write your legislators on our issues this session. Your work is one of the main reasons for our ongoing success.

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