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Taxes hot topic at town hall in Morris

MORRIS – At a town hall meeting in Morris last week, Rep. Jay McNamar said he supports a plan to give surplus money back to Minnesota residents.

“Governor Dayton said this: if we get a surplus, that means we’re taxing too much – we need to give some of that money back,” said McNamar. “I support that.”

Some possible tax cuts include eliminating a taxes on agriculture and logging equipment repairs, warehouses and broadband, McNamar said.

McNamar opened the meeting on Friday, Feb. 21 with some of his highlights from the 2013 session: balancing the budget, paying back money borrowed from local schools, increasing funding for education and increasing payments to local governments.

During the session, the legislature increased per pupil funding for K-12 education, provided funding for all day, every day kindergarten, and froze college tuition rates, McNamar said.

“Minnesota is one of the fastest recovering states in the nation from our last recession,” said McNamar. “One of the main reasons is because of our educational system – an investment in education is money well spent.”

Additionally, legislators focused on increasing funding for local government and eliminating local government sales tax with the goal to lower property taxes.

“We gave $80 million to cities, $40 million to counties and $10 million to townships,” said McNamar. “We did this with the intent of getting our cities back to where they were and hopefully it would be able to lower property taxes.”

Locally, the city of Morris did not raise property taxes in 2014. However, Stevens County saw a 25 percent reduction to county program aid and ultimately raised the tax levy about 4.56 percent.

McNamar noted that Grant County also lost county program aid because the property values in both counties increased.

Taxes were a point of discussion throughout the meeting. Steve Fults of Donnelly asked why taxes were raised by $2.1 billion if the plan is to take taxes away this session.

“I think [the surplus] came from the good economy the Republicans set in two years before you got there,” said Fults.

McNamar said the $2.1 billion increase came from increasing taxes on the wealthiest two percent of taxpayers, closing corporate loopholes and increasing taxes on cigarettes.

“It didn’t hurt basically anybody in my tax bracket or your tax bracket,” said McNamar. He added that he didn’t like the cigarette tax because nicotine is addictive and the tax affects low income people.

This session, the legislature also plans to raise the minimum wage – an effort McNamar said he supports.

“That money will be earned mostly by low income people,” said McNamar. “Low income people do not invest. A lot of them do not put money away. That’s money they need to live day to day and that’s money that goes directly into our economy.”

A stipulation in one minimum wage bill states that the minimum wage for people under 20 will be less for the first 90 days of employment. McNamar said this will help kids get employment over the summer.