From: Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R ó Mazeppa
One of my top goals this session is to eliminate the obscene amount of tax increases that were placed on Minnesotaís farmers by legislative Democrats and Governor Dayton at the end of the 2013 session.
Recently, I presented a comprehensive farmerís tax repeal bill to the House Taxes Committee for its consideration. Among the laws I proposed dropping: a sales tax for the repair of farm equipment, a storage sales tax on ag inputs such as fuel and fertilizer, a new farm tax on property created by a statewide general school levy, and a new wheelage tax.
With a $1.2 billion surplus, thereís no reason why we couldnít pay off these unneeded tax increases and end the governmentís assault on the ag community.
I encouraged the Taxes Committee Chair and committee members to think about the observed difficulties associated with the implementation of these new tax laws. Regarding the farm equipment repair tax, I know from personal conversations around our district that a large number of ag businesses did not know they needed to collect this tax when it went into effect. Some are still not collecting it because they think itís going to be repealed.
My bill also allows those who paid the tax to be retroactively reimbursed by government. Yet some still wouldnít get their money back because they didnít save receipts.
The Taxes Committee agreed to repeal most of these unnecessary taxes, but not all. With our surplus, the money is there to make all of these taxes go away, so letís hope all state lawmakers come to their senses ó soon.
I also presented another bill this week that was brought forward by an area veteran. Under current state law, a former member of the military police can take a reciprocity examination to become a full-time peace officer in Minnesota if the veteran served in military law enforcement for five years. As most enlistments are either two or four years, a soldier would actually have to re-enlist in order to meet this statewide standard.
My bill would simply change the requirement from five years to four. To me this is common sense legislation that allows our veterans who enjoyed law enforcement in the military to more easily continue this career path once they return to Minnesota. It also makes it easier for law enforcement agencies to recruit these highly qualified and talented individuals.
Finally, the Minnesota House began to address the propane gas supply shortage situation by approving a $20 million appropriation to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This money is only available to the poorest Minnesotans who are struggling to heat their homes during this frigid winter. Many of these folks are from rural Minnesota and are feeling the pinch of skyrocketing propane prices due to a supply shortage. The program was scheduled to run out of money in March.
This was a good short-term answer for those who truly need help, but we need a long-range solution that ensures Minnesota is not going to be short on propane again. Having Congress and President Obama approve the Keystone pipeline would help, as it would eliminate nearly 70 percent of the oil train traffic that travels through Minnesota, meaning more trains could safely bring propane to our state.
In the meantime, Iíll be working with lawmakers from both parties this session to find solutions that state government can implement. Propane is not only important for home heating, but it is critical for farmers who are drying their crops during the fall months. Minnesotans should not be forced to suffer because legislative leaders canít figure out how to remove the government-imposed barriers that restrict the ability of the private sector to ship enough propane to the people of our state.