With elections approaching, local candidates running for office place state tax reform high on their campaign agenda.
Minnesotans pay the third highest income tax, second highest motor-vehicle tax, third highest sales tax, and the sixth highest property tax in the country.
Property tax reform is the chief concern for most local candidates. High property taxes have discouraged developers from building affordable housing units in the Twin Cities, which has been especially detrimental to student renters.
House District 62A — West Bank
In this three-way race, Republican Orlando Ochoada, DFLer Jim Davnie and Independence Party candidate Mary Mellen are debating approaches to property tax reform.
Ochoada’s advocates lowering property taxes and increasing the sales tax. “We need to shift the burden of funding government from income taxes to the sales tax. …It’s a regressive tax, but I don’t care.”
Davnie argues that an increased sales tax would hurt those with the least money.
“The best strategy is to look at what we pay for out of property taxes that shouldn’t be there,” he said.
Mellen said she favors lowering taxes, and her primary concern is increasing pay for teachers.
“The teaching profession needs to be empowered,” she said. “A quick way to do that might be that teachers do not pay state income tax.”
House District 54A — St. Paul campus
This race pits 12-year DFLer Mary Jo McGuire against Republican challenger Julie Ward.
McGuire advocates lowering property taxes and said she wants to increase the state’s percentage of education funding.
“I have always supported tax relief, and I want to see less of a reliance on property taxes,” she said.
Ward’s strategy focuses on income taxes and the lack of Twin Cities’ affordable housing.
“I’d like to see the surplus returned to taxpayers, but even better, I’d like taxes to be lower in the first place,” she said.
House District 59B — East Bank
DFL incumbent Phyllis Kahn, a veteran legislator, said she supports targeted tax cuts, but said large tax cuts would make it impossible to give appropriate support to public
“Taxes are the ticket price we pay for a civilized society,” Kahn said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t support reform of the tax system.”
GOP challenger and University student Ben Bowman said his main concern is property taxes, noting their increase since the Legislature repealed a law limiting the percentage of increase every year.
“I would like to take a closer look into that, and also to ensure that students get a fair and proper rebate for taxes paid in,” he said.
Senate District 59 — East Bank
GOP University student Kristin Meyer and current DFL Sen. Larry Pogemiller both favor property tax reform but differ on the method.
Meyer said she wants to raise the income ceiling under which people do not have to pay income taxes, and eliminate health care taxes.
“I would like to reduce, if not eliminate, state income tax,” Meyer said.
Pogemiller said he believes in progressive taxes, but argues taxes must be balanced. He said decreasing property taxes would aid students by alleviating the housing crisis.
“Taxes should be based on ability to pay,” he said. “We need to balance all types of taxation to create as much fairness and equity as we can.”
Senate District 62 — West Bank
Three of this district’s candidates want property-tax relief to increase housing opportunities.
Republican candidate Kelly Bailey said he wants to eliminate property tax penalties and said the overall tax burden on working people is too high.
“The current system is grossly unfair,” he said. “It hits poor people, minorities, students and the elderly the hardest. …The government is not returning a fair value.”
Independent Party candidate Steve Anderson said his primary goal is to keep taxes progressive and also favors increasing income taxes to provide property and sales tax relief.
“People in lower income brackets should not be paying a higher percent of their income than the wealthy,” Anderson said.
DFLer Julie Ann Sabo said the state’s tax codes need to be re-evaluated and restructured. Taxes should be reduced when necessary, but never at the cost of funding needed programs, she said.
Sabo also wants to shift education funding away from the local property tax and to the state income tax.
Senate District 54 — St.Paul
Republican candidate Mark Zasandy is running against current DFL incumbent Sen. John Marty.
Zasandy said he believes the property tax should be eliminated.
“Today, we no longer make money off the land we own,” he said. “In fact, it’s usually the source of most of our debt. For this reason, and because tax is so convoluted, I believe we should eliminate the property tax.”
One of Marty’s main concerns is that taxes are not used to fund sports arenas.
Jessica Thompson welcomes comments at [email protected]