BAXTER-Republican state lawmakers and about 20 members of the public met Wednesday to talk taxes and how to reform Minnesota's approach to collecting them.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, chair of the Minnesota House of Representatives Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division, co-hosted a meeting at Baymont Inn to chat with local business owners and to advocate for the cuts contained in the GOP-controlled House's tax reform bill.

The bill is waiting to be reconciled during the upcoming legislative session with a bill from the DFL-controlled Senate-which Drazkowski described as "wimpy" in terms of its tax cuts.

"Folks, government is fat and sassy right now," he said.

Much of the conversation on tax reform at the Capitol will be based on the upcoming state budget forecast to be released Friday. The 2016 legislative session begins March 8.

One portion of the GOP's tax bill that Drazkowski highlighted in particular was a provision that would provide relief for farmers during school infrastructure levies.

Reps. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, and Dale Lueck, R-Nisswa, helped organize Monday's meeting and both talked about specific tax cut provisions they had put forward which made it into the House's omnibus tax bill.

Heintzeman has a measure in the overall GOP tax bill that would exempt up to $20,000 in a person's military retirement pay from state income taxes. Lueck's measure would phase out taxes on Social Security income over five years.

Heintzeman was optimistic his military pension provision would make it out of the conference committee-where the Senate and House negotiate their respective bill versions-and into the final bill. "This is something that's been worked on for decades," he said. "I think there's a will, and support there."

Tax breaks for seasonal property owners and a cut to the statewide business property tax were also discussed.

Toward the end of the meeting, Drazkowski had an exchange with former longtime DFL legislator Don Samuelson, who was sitting in the audience. Samuelson had a cautionary tale from when he was in the Minnesota Senate during the administration of Gov. Jesse Ventura. When Ventura pushed lowered rates for high-value homes and businesses, the lower-value homes saw their tax rates increase as the burden shifted, Samuelson said.

 

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser.