Gunther gives legislative review

FAIRMONT – Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, presented Martin County Commissioners with his personal review of this year’s legislative session during the regular board meeting Tuesday.

Gunther stated some good came out of the session, such as an increase for schools and in county aid, but he still sees a battle between the metro area and the rural areas of Minnesota.

“Everything that happened was advantage Metro,” Gunther said. “I find we’re fighting that more every year.”

Gunther also expressed displeasure at the new taxes.

“It was a tough year on small businesses,” he said. “When they passed that tax on storage buildings, did they realize it also covered grain elevators? Corn is corn, and soybeans are soybeans, but in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, they don’t have to pay storage tax. That really puts us at a disadvantage. … We had a businessman who has nine warehouses in Minneapolis testify before us and tell us how he planned to move his businesses to Wisconsin.”

Gunther also voiced displeasure with the gasoline and tobacco taxes.

“That’s more chasing over the border,” Gunther said, citing a good portion of Minnesota’s population lives close to a bordering state. “Now some of that tax is going to the Viking stadium. … The last thing I wanted was taxpayers paying for a stadium. If I knew that was going to happen, I wouldn’t have voted for it.”

When the gas tax was brought up, Schmidtke said he wouldn’t mind the tax if it would be help local needs.

“I want to see them fix the roads,” Schmidtke said. “Highway 15 is terrible, 169 is terrible.”

But instead, much of the funds will go to the metro area, including the light rail systems.

“We pay for those trains up there,” Gunther said. “Have we gotten a thank-you note? I’ve seen that North Star one going up with absolutely no one on it. It’s a 100-percent loss.”

“You’re not making us feel very good here, Bob,” said Commissioner chairman Elliot Belgard after Gunther’s assessment.

But Gunther attempted to counter the downside with the news of increases in school funds, county program aid and a new capitol investment improvements project, which counties can apply for with bonding proposals if they have matching funds.

“I haven’t seen anything from Martin County yet,” Gunther said in regards to bonding proposals.

In other business, commissioners held their board of equalization hearing Tuesday evening. Fifteen landowners filed appeals, with 11 of those seeing a reduction in their taxable market value, and two parcels with class changes. Two of the parcels remained unchanged.

The board rejected two of the assessor’s recommendations: one for Doug Hilgendorf, who requested one of his buildings on his property continue to be zoned agriculture instead of being changed to commercial. The other request was for a rental property in Fairmont owned by Neil Devries, which the commissioners dropped from a $91,300 market value to $85,000.