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Basin boards could assess new tax

Published (3/18/2010)
By Sue Hegarty
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A plan to organize local watershed districts into regional basin boards is drawing criticism for its attempt to tax local districts in order to provide financial support for the boards.

Sponsored by Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead), HF1734 would allow a basin board or a county to access a property tax levy throughout a river basin if a majority of the members are elected officials. The tax may not exceed 0.048 percent of the taxable market value of all property within the basin or $1 million, whichever is less.

Lanning said the policy is needed so that water issues can be addressed from a broader perspective. Of the nine river basins in Minnesota, only three are formally organized. In his district, the Ottertail watershed has not petitioned to become formally organized and is not a board member.

The House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division held the bill over March 18 for possible omnibus bill inclusion after members voiced concerns.

“It would be important to know if the governor supports this local tax increase,” Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls) said.

Rep. Kate Knuth (DFL-New Brighton) said the proposal is a smart way to deal with water planning issues, but she’s concerned about how a basin board would interact with local entities.

Sen. John Doll (DFL-Burnsville) sponsors a companion, SF2085. It awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

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