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January 15, 2009     Tri-County News
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January 15, 2009
 

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Thursday, January 15,2009 "F_IQ .4, Govornment Tri-Coun Ne Opinion: State fees skyrocket ByleffVan Wychen state fee revenue, the increase in Minnesota 202O Fellow regressive fees is nowhere near Getting married? Congratula- enough to recoup the decline in tions. That wedding license will tax revenue; thereby contribut - costyou $110, that&apos;s $40 more than ing to the state's $5.5 billion bud- it would have cost you six years ago, a 57 percent jump. Going pheasant hunting? Your pheas- ant stamp will cost $7.50 -- 50 per- cent more than six years ago. Min- nesota may soon be known as the land of 10,000 fee increases. While Minnesota's policy- makers continue to tout "No New Taxes" to solve budget shortfalls, the reality is that state fee increases are being used as replacement tax revenue. Minnesota 2020's recent report found fees have increased more than 20 percent from 2003 to 2008. At the same time, state tax revenue dropped more than 5 percent and is expected to drop another 9 percent in 2009. Backfilling the state budget with fees while the governor waves the "No New Taxes" banner is dis- ingenuous. When used correctly, a fee is payment for the privilege of using or receiving a particu- lar good or service. Fees can help cover the costs of activities, such as camping or hunting with which they're associated. Unfortunately, some new fees don't fit the traditional def- inition. For example, the 2005 "health impact fee" imposed on cigarettes to cover costs associ- ated with tobacco use on the sur- face fits the standard definition of a fee. However, most of the rev- enue was actually used to free up other state dollars for areas unre- lated to health care. In practice, this "fee" increase functioned as a tax increase. Fees are very regressive, mean- ing that low- and middle-income families pay a larger percentage of their income in taxes than high- income families. Overall, Min- nesota's tax system has become increasingly regressive in recent years. Increasing reliance on fees to pay for state government accel- erates Minnesota's drift toward a less fair revenue system. Because state tax revenue is about seven times greater than get shortfall. Fees play an important role in financing government. It's appeal- ing tO require those who bene- fit from particular public goods and services to cover the costs through a fee. However, Minneso- ta's recent fee increases frequently have fallen outside of what would be considered good public policy. Ronald Reagan once said that another way to spell fee is "T-A-X." While the 40th president was over- simplifying, this comment would be applicable to Minnesota today. In order to satisfy political ideol- ogy, revenue increases that would ordinarily be considered a "tax increase" are reframed as a "fee increase." During the 2009 legislative ses- sion, the State will be confront- ing a massive $5.5 billion-dollar deficit for the next two-year bud- get cycle. Continuing the policies of the last six years -- balancing the state budget through a combi- nation of painful budget cuts and fee increases -- will force more of the cost of state government on to those with the least ability to pay at the same time that funding for schools, transportation, and other public services continues to dwin- dle. Minnesota 2020 recommends a more reasonable and balanced approach that relies on a mix of spending reductions, revenue increases, and--where appro- priate-fee increases to ensure growth and prosperity for Minne- sota in the coming years. Jeff Van Wychen is a tax fel- low at Minnesota 2020, a St. Paul- based policy think tank. For the last 23 years, he has been a policy analyst for various local govern- ments an4 non-profit organiza- tions. Before becoming a consul- tant in 1998, Jeff was a fiscal ana- lyst for the City of Minneapolis and, prior to that, for the League of Minnesota cities. Tuesday, lawmakers met for a new session of the Legislature and laid out procedural rules for legis- lators and staff. That included dis- cussion about some of the things that the Legislature itself spends money on. Senate Republicans asked the DFL majority to consider starting our cuts in our own offices, includ- ing reducing Our postage allot- ment because of an increased use of e-mail and online networking, banning taxpayer-funded travel during this fiscal emergency and setting a target date for the major- ity party to give an outline of its own budget. All of the requests were shot down by the DFL majority. It was unfortunate that they categor- ically refused to look at cutting a savings of about $100,000. Of course, it isn't the final answer to our problems, but it would have been a practical first step to show Minnesota taxpayers that we too can share in the belt-tightening. I also want to give you some brief thoughts on some of the issues ahead of us. Throughout the next few weeks, feel free to share your comments and opinions with me. Now that Minnesota's tight U.S. Senate race is in litigation, Minne- sotans have become increasingly aware of possible voter fraud and want some type of voter ID in place to secure the integrity of elections. Photo IDs are currently required for numerous reasons, but not to vote in Minnesota. One of the focuses of pol- icy debate worldwide is find- ing new, clean sources of energy Miche|le Fischbach Minnesota State Senator Week in review: Jan. 5-9 that will make our nation more independent. In Minnesota, new nuclear power plants are effec- tively banned, but many lawmak- ers would like to renew discussion for the option in light of new pro- cedures that make nuclear power cleaner ahd safer. It's been almost 35 years since a nuclear power plant was constructed in Minne- sota; we currently use two plants to supply about 20 percent of the state's electricity. As we look closer at a mandate that requires 25 percent of the state's energy to come from renew- able sources such as wind and solar power by the year 2025, it may be time to bring about changes that will open the door for expanded nuclear power generation. Legislators saw mu.ltiple bills in 2008 relating to the prevention and handling of housing foreclo- sures. Continued fallout in the housing market will likely result in some version of borrower assis- tance along with changes to aban- doned property laws. Health-care reform and improving efficiency and effec- tiveness will likely be among the highest priorities this session, although federal action is likely to take the first step in this area. Senator Michelle Fischbach is serving in her fifth term in the Minnesota Senate. She "encour- ages and appreciates constitu- ent input and can be reached at (651) 296-2084, by mail to 145 State Office Building, St. Paul MN 55155 or via e-mail at <sen. michelle.fischbach @senate.mn>. Volunteer, American Heart * Association Page 13 Legal Notice NOTICE OF MEETING DATE CHANGE KIMBALL CITY COUNCIL Due to holidays, the following regular Council meetings have changed to Tuesdays for the dates listed below: January !9, 2009 (Martin Luther King, Jr.) Will now be 7 p.m. Janu- ary 20, 2009. February 16, 2009 (President's Day) Will now be 7 p.m. February 17, 2009. September 7, 2009 (Labor Day) Will now be 7 p.m. September 8, 2009. Published in the Tri-County News Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. Legal Notice MAINE PRAIRIE TOWNSHIP MEETING DATE CHANGE Maine Prairie Township will be changing the Comprehensive Growth meeting date from Tues- day, Jan. 27 to be held on Thurs- day, Jan. 29 to begin at 6:30 p.m., at the Kimball Area Fire and Rescue Hall, 300 N Elm St,, Kimball. All township meetings are open to the public. Terre Harff Maine Prairie Clerk Published in the Tri County News on Thursdays, Jan. 15 and 21, 2009. We have ])I Plat Books with 9-1-1 addresses and legal land descriptions (*other counties can be ordered) $21.oo + tax downtown Kimball (320! 398-5000 Building Site Prep. ,,, Demolition - Basements Additions o Fill & Black Dirt Septic Systems, New or Repair State Certified - Over 25 Years Experience - Free Estimates Call Larry Krippner, Owner (320) 398-8893 Marty, MN IPPNE LAND O'LAKES OI[ & PROPANE KIMBALL, MN poparie * Soy Diesel Fuel Kerosene Motor Oil Tank Truck Gasoline Transport Tires ManqaneT S,00nb00 E&na RealTy Call me for all your real estate needs! (320) 267-2516 (cell) .  Emergency Food Inc. St. Anne's Church in Kimball [ - a.m, Tues./Thurs. 10 10:45 Also open 2nd Monday of the month: 5:30-6:30 p.m. tel. (320) 398-2211 For after-hours emergencies, call one of the area churches. Licensed & Bonded #0001091 Building & Remodeling Residential Builders lqJSB BSTIMATES Chuck: $20-398-7512 \\; Bob: $20-255-1662 Fdmball