In response to David Sadler's July 29 letter: It is important to note that we, along with our colleagues in both political parties, worked hard to reduce Minnesotans' property taxes. We are proud of our bipartisan success.
Together we traveled across the state to listen to Minnesotans. We opened a property tax comment line for citizen input, took public testimony from thousands of Minnesotans, sent out surveys and went door to door across the state. Collectively, Minnesotans and small-businesses owners in the state asked us to work on property tax burdens, and we did.
Contrary to what was stated by Sadler, we met repeatedly with seniors groups and dozens of other groups interested in reducing property tax burdens. We wanted to reduce property tax burdens for seniors, disabled veterans, young families, middle-aged Minnesotans, farmers and small businesses. Indeed, Sadler has testified at our hearings.
While compromise requires sacrifice and some may not get everything they want, Minnesotans expect us to find workable solutions for seniors and all property taxpayers, and we did just that.
With Minnesotans' input, legislators from both political parties seriously, and with civility, debated the options. Our bipartisan negotiations resulted in the passage of property tax relief. We, as the authors of significant property tax reductions, were thrilled as both bodies of the Legislature voted with overwhelming bipartisan majorities to help lower property tax burdens for Minnesotans. In the recently adjourned session, we continued to protect direct property tax relief for homeowners. We still need to do more to restore our partnership with local government.
All Minnesota homeowners and renters should review the Minnesota property tax refund programs closely. Income limits for tax refunds have changed, and residents who may not have qualified for property tax refunds in the past may now qualify.
We thank our Republican and Democratic legislative colleagues, Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, who supported these efforts and helped our legislation become law. We also wish to thank Gov. Tim Pawlenty for working with us and signing the Legislature's bipartisan property tax relief bill.
With a global recession underway, we know many difficulties and opportunities are ahead in the property tax area as we look to redesign, reform, make strategic investments and cut government spending. Minnesotans expect results, not politics, and that is exactly what we delivered.
REP. ann lenczewski and Rep. PAUL MARQUART
Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, is the House tax committee chair. Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, is the House property tax committee chair.
While it is not difficult to make a case for the economic and social benefits that high-speed Internet access can have for individuals and communities, these benefits can best be provided by the private sector when consumer demand requires it. Virtually every time governments in Minnesota have interfered with the free market by attempting to offer their own broadband service, time and valuable public resources have been wasted.
As demonstrated in the November 2009 report released by the Minnesota Broadband Task Force, where adequate demand has existed in the state for broadband, the private sector has provided these services.
One role that government can play in expanding citizens' access to Internet service is to take the advice given in the legislative task force report and encourage "private sector providers to build out or upgrade their networks where necessary."
If the city of Monticello, which offers high-speed Internet, phone and cable TV service as a public utility, would have utilized this wise advice, the city could have prevented incurring a large financial liability and time could have been saved. TDS Telecommunications, which was already operating in Monticello, now provides customers there with much faster broadband speeds and free upgrades to its service.
In the past several decades, Minnesota's telecommunications, cable, and broadband service providers have invested more than $8 billion in private capital to build out, upgrade and maintain the services offered in Minnesota. Thanks to the private sector, Minnesota's taxpayers should never need to foot the bill for a more expensive, less efficient government-controlled alternative.
TOM STEWARD, INVESTIGATIVE DIRECTOR, FREEDOM FOUNDATION OF MINNESOTA
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These days, high-speed broadband has evolved beyond mere convenience. Like railroads, highways, electricity and telephones before it, broadband has become a necessity for communities hoping to participate in the modern economy. With speed of communication comes improved education, health care, public safety and jobs to replace those lost to our lingering recession.
But like those previous innovations, high-speed broadband will not just happen by itself. It will require public-private partnerships to hasten the arrival of those jobs, and that's why the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce is supporting an initiative by XO Communications to build its "Northern Lights Project," a high-speed fiber network across our region.
But securing the future requires us to speak up, because while almost one-third of the cost to build this network will be borne by XO Communications, the remainder must come from federal stimulus dollars. The potential impact of this program cannot be ignored, but without federal support, the network will never be built.
In the coming weeks, federal decisionmakers are expected to award stimulus funding to projects like this, and we're hopeful that XO's Northern Lights Project will be considered fundamental to the area served by the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce -- more than 600 local businesses with 40,000 employees.
RUTHE BATULIS, PRESIDENT, Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce