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Property tax claim disputed

BEMIDJI – It’s a line that DFLers have used in debates, and outside groups have used in TV ads.

But the claim that Republicans voted to increase property taxes on 95 percent of Minnesotans is being disputed from the other side, and non-partisan entities have little evidence to support it.

“Outrageous, outrageous lies,” said state Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, who is the property tax committee chair at the Legislature.

The claim has been used by the left-leaning group Alliance for a Better Minnesota in previous campaigns, and recently made it onto the airwaves in its TV ad attacking state Rep. David Hancock, R-Bemidji. Hancock, who was first elected in 2010 in a Republican sweep of the House and Senate, is facing DFLer Roger Erickson in November.

The ad cites the vote to eliminate the Market Value Homestead Credit, which the state was supposed to pay to localities annually. It was eliminated as part of the deal to end the state government shutdown in the summer of 2011.

ABM said the program provided property tax relief to 95 percent of homeowners, hence, the claim in the ads.

“In 2010, 95 percent of Minnesota homeowners, on their property tax statements, had a box for the Market Value Homestead Credit,” said Ryan Furlong, a spokesman for ABM. “That box that gives homeowners middle class property tax relief…that’s no longer there anymore.”

The Legislature replaced the program with the Market Value Homestead Exclusion, which excludes a certain amount of a home’s value from taxation.

Lisa Erickson, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Revenue, said the elimination of the program “affected” 95 percent of homeowners, but not nearly that many have actually seen a property tax increase.  

“Any increase in property tax was due to a number of factors including legislative changes like the elimination of the market value credit and the creation of the homestead exclusion, assessor valuation changes, and local government levy changes,” Erickson wrote in an email. “If you count all of these various factors, from 2011 to 2012, 68.7 percent of households experienced an increase in property taxes and 31 percent saw a decrease in property taxes.”

Davids said the MVHC wasn’t working in the first place. In the 10 years it existed, the state only paid it out the full amount once, Davids said.

“It was a dishonest, fraudulent program that the cities and counties came to us and said, ‘Get rid of it,’” Davids said.

Davids said many people he’s talked to while campaigning have seen a property tax decrease.

The claim has drawn attention from both Minnesota Public Radio and WCCO’s Pat Kessler, both of whom came to the same conclusion: it’s misleading.

“Just because they were eligible for it, doesn’t mean their taxes went up,” Davids said. “(ABM is) simply lying.”

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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