The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 25, 2007

Property tax frustration evident

Politicians, community members speak out at forum

MANKATO — Property taxes are likely to shoot higher if Gov. Tim Pawlenty doesn’t call a special session to provide tax relief, according to city officials. But top lawmakers and the governor’s office expressed doubt that a session will be called.

DFL legislative leaders doubt Pawlenty’s sincere interest in providing property tax relief, and Pawlenty doesn’t believe he can trust lawmakers to limit their agenda to the tax issue if he calls them into special session.

“If you don’t hear something’s going to happen by the end of the month of August, it’s pretty unlikely,” said Senate Tax Committee Chairman Tom Bakk at a forum in Mankato Wednesday. “... I have to tell you, I’m a little bit frustrated. I think a lot of people are.”

That frustration was evident among the more than 50 people to attend the event, which also included Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller and was organized by Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato.

When Rebecca Sandon of Mankato said rising property taxes were threatening to drive people from their homes, Bakk said he was sympathetic.

“You better be,” Sandon said. “... It’s getting terrible for the seniors.”

Lawmakers and Pawlenty, campaigning a year ago, heard that same sentiment from voters and pledged to provide relief. But the Republican governor and DFL leaders failed to reach agreement on property tax relief during the session, and that will lead to higher taxes for owners of homes and other real estate, Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges said.

City officials are just starting their budget-setting process for next year’s budget, but Hentges said a rough look at Mankato’s needs versus falling state aid shows a $1.5 million shortfall. That could translate into a 14 percent increase in the overall property tax levy, he said.

If the Legislative tax bill had become law, additional state aid would have cut that deficit in half — greatly reducing the needed tax increase, he said.

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