BEMIDJI -- Tax decisions made years ago on Enbridge pipeline utilities by the Minnesota Department of Revenue could put a financial burden on Beltrami County.
As a result, county officials are hoping legislation at the Minnesota Capitol is passed to avoid being held responsible.
Last month, the Minnesota Tax Court made decisions in favor of the Enbridge company, which argued that it had been overtaxed for several years by the Department of Revenue. In the decisions, the state agency was found to have overvalued the company's pipelines from 2012-216.
However, while what was challenged in court were the valuations by the state, counties are the parties that will be liable for the tax refunds. Enbridge's pipeline system runs through 13 Minnesota counties, which may be impacted by the decision.
They include Aitkin, Beltrami, Carlton, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Marshall, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake and St. Louis Counties. The subject has been in litigation for several years and has remained a great concern to local government units.
During a county board meeting Tuesday, Commissioner Reed Olson said he's heard estimates where Beltrami would have to pay more than $2 million.
"I don't need to tell you, gentlemen, what impact this is going to have on some of the smaller (local government units), and especially some of the smaller counties," Olson said.
One of the meeting's attendees was District 2 Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, who said he's introduced bills in the Legislature to help with the issue. One of the bills includes a section making counties harmless in the situation, meaning if there are refunds due to Enbridge, the counties won't be responsible.
"We want to get this done before we're out of here, and we only have a month to go," Utke said. "We hope to cover a lot of ground here in the next four weeks and get results that protect you."
Utke also said Tuesday that his legislation would address the overvaluations made by the state agency in the past.
"We need to get the Department of Revenue to come into compliance," Utke said. "We're talking about companies that do business not only in Minnesota but all of our neighbor states."
Matthew Hilgart, government relations manager for the Association of Minnesota Counties, was also in attendance Tuesday and said the organization is a supporter of Utke's legislation to hold local governments financially harmless.