Phil Krinkie, St. Paul, column: Retire the Blame Game on property taxes
By Phil Krinkie ST. PAUL -- We all know the Blame Game, and most of us have played it from time to time. If we mess up or do something we shouldn't, we quickly pin the cause of our actions on someone else. In the world of politics, the Blame Game...
By Phil Krinkie
ST. PAUL -- We all know the Blame Game, and most of us have played it from time to time.
If we mess up or do something we shouldn't, we quickly pin the cause of our actions on someone else.
In the world of politics, the Blame Game has been developed into an art form, one side always accusing the other side of some act that has caused hardship for thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands.
The most episode of the Blame Game that has played out in St. Paul is over property taxes.
Every fall as the leaves in Minnesota turn bright colors, so do the faces of many local elected officials as they struggle to explain their vote for higher property tax levies.
The reason for this contest is simple: State legislators want to claim credit for holding down property tax rates.
Therefore, they transfer billions of state dollars to city and county governments to hold down property tax rates.
In turn, local governments lobby for more money from the state to let them keep property tax rates down while continuing to grow local government spending.
If cities and counties don't get more aid or if there is a reduction in property tax subsidies, they quickly blame state legislators for property tax increases.
This fall, the property tax Blame Game has heated up more than usual because of a change in property tax relief legislation. Under this change, the current Market Value Homestead Credit program was replaced with a new Homestead Market Value Exclusion program.
The new system allows for the elimination of the homestead credit without a significant increase in homeowner property taxes.
It does this by having all types of property share the burden of providing the tax relief to homeowners.
Effectively, the cost of the formerly state-paid credit now is shifted relatively evenly among all property taxes (including homesteads).
But the key point is this: No matter what you call it or how you redistribute state tax dollars to local governments, property tax relief programs reduce transparency and accountability for local government spending.
For neither side wins in the Blame Game, and the taxpayer always loses.
If you are concerned about how much you pay in property taxes, then get a copy of your city and county budget to examine how your tax dollars are being spent.
Your local elected officials decide how and where to spend your tax dollars, no matter how much or how little is doled out by the state.
State property tax relief is just like pain medication: Once the relief wears off, the pain goes on.
Any state aid to local governments is not tax relief. It's just a tax shift, a shift of the tax burden with the state picking winners and losers.
Instead of playing the Blame Game, legislators should focus on eliminating all property tax relief programs for four reasons.
** Property tax relief programs only confuse property owners and cloud what cities and counties really spend.
** If residents want or demand more local services, they should pay the full cost of the services and not expect state taxpayers to bear a portion of the bill.
** Local services such as fire, police, snow removal and street repair should not be based on the value of a home, but on the value of the service.
** Ending the shell game of property tax relief programs will prevent legislators from trying to curry favor from taxpayers.
The state constitution reads "taxes shall be uniform upon the same class subjects."
That means legislators should strive to provide a simple and uniform system of property taxes, not a convoluted rubric of programs that serve only to confuse and confound the average property owner.
It's time to retire the Blame Game and provide property owners with tax transparency.
Krinkie is president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.
He is a former eight-term Republican state representative from Lino Lakes, Minn.