Anoka County puts together wish list for legislature

The Anoka County Board has approved its wish list for the 2013 Minnesota Legislature.

Specifically, the board Nov. 27 adopted the legislative platform recommended by its Intergovernmental and Community Relations Committee.

The document will be presented to the Anoka County legislative delegation at a workshop the county board is hosting Dec. 11, 3 to 5 p.m., at the government center.

The platform is divided into two sections with nine issues on which the county will actively lobby and 17 which the county will support with other agencies.

The nine issued identified by the board for active lobbying are:

• No changes in the fiscal disparities policy unless it is done as part of comprehensive tax reform.

• State funding of $1,050,000 for enhancement grants to county veterans service offices through the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs to be distributed equitably among veterans service offices based on the number of veterans served.

• Changing the employee durational time limit from four to five years in the Senior Community Service Employment Program, a job training center work experience program.

• State bonding totaling $17 million for an interchange at Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard in Ramsey.

• Counties should be allowed two days for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) interviews instead of the present same day.

• Clarifying law change making medical support obligations more equitable between custodial and non-custodial parents.

• Clarifying state law on supervised and conditional release for sex offenders.

• Opposition to county cost share in the proposed Minnesota Department of Human Services “Northstar Care for Children” legislation, which would have counties contribute to adoption and relative custody assistance.

• A law change to move all responsibility for licensing of family child care homes from counties to the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

According to Kathy Tingelstad, the county had good success with its active lobbying issues in the 2012 session with seven of 11 passing.

She is hoping that with active lobbying the county will enjoy similar success in 2013 as well, Tingelstad said.

To help with lobbying on the fiscal disparities law, the county board approved a contract for lobbying services with Dave Johnson, an attorney with the Best and Flanagan LLP law firm.

According to Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah, any discussion on changing the fiscal disparities law should not be done in isolation, but only as part of state comprehensive tax reform.

Under the fiscal disparities law, whose chief author was the late Rep. Charles Weaver of Anoka, property value on commercial/industrial (C/I) land in the metropolitan region is distributed among the various local units of government.

Forty percent of the C/I growth in the property value in the metropolitan area is placed in a pool and taxed at the same rate in all of the municipalities and taxing jurisdictions, and the pool is distributed to the various jurisdictions based on state-prescribed formula.

As a result, the disparity paid between taxes paid on C/I property in high growth areas compared with low growth areas is reduced, according to Tingelstad.

Tingelstad provided figures to the county that showed the impact on taxpayers in the county if the fiscal disparities law was eliminated.

The county’s portion of the property tax bill on a $200,000 market value residence for payable 2011 would have increased about $36, while in Anoka-Hennepin School District 11, the tax on a $200,000 residence without fiscal disparities would have been $156 higher and $120 more in the St. Francis School District.

“On average, total taxes (city, school and county) on residential properties would be about 10 percent higher if the fiscal disparities policy was higher,” Tingelstad wrote in her report to the board.

County Commissioner Andy Westerberg, who chairs the board’s Public Works Committee, said a top priority for him was the $17 million in state bonding for the interchange project on Highway 10.

Westerberg, who won’t be on the board in 2013 following his defeat in the Nov. 6 general election, hoped the county board would continue to make this a top priority, he said.

“This is critically important,” Westerberg said.

According to information provided by Tingelstad, funding currently needed to complete the interchange project, including construction, is $35 million.

The $17 million sought in the bonding bill would be the state’s share with $10 million sought from the federal government and $4 million each from the city of Ramsey and the county, Tingelstad wrote.

“We began the effort last session but were not successful,” she said. “We will be back again next year.”

The 17 items on which the county will support others, but will not actively lobby for run the gamut of county government issues, including tax and fiscal policy, transportation and environment, bonding and human services.

Positions include opposing further reductions in county program aid, clarifying that county state aid highway dollars are not state funds, exempting county road and bridge purchases from sales tax, keeping Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) sales tax funds dedicated to transit in the CTIB counties, allowing county employees to be on the state long-term care insurance program, keeping state funding for local road wetland replacement program, state bonding for parks projects in Riverfront and Coon Rapids Dam regional parks and state bonding for local bridge rehabilitation and replacement, as well as local road capital improvement program projects.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]