12/21/2018 2:33:00 PM Area legislators offer views on upcoming session
MONICA LUNDQUIST Cass County Correspondent
WALKER-State Sen. Justin Eichorn and Rep. John Poston met with Cass County commissioners during the Tuesday, Dec. 18 county board meeting to exchange views about the upcoming state legislative session.
Sen. Sandy Layman and Rep. John Persell were also invited, but each had conflicts with family matters.
Poston told the commissioners he sees producing a state budget, making state law conform to federal tax laws and mental health as the top issues facing the Legislature this session.
Eichorn cited his effort to seek additional state money for the Indian Child Welfare Act and for payments in lieu of taxes as issues benefitting this area.
Both legislators encouraged county officials to keep presenting their views during the session to keep their legislators informed about where the county stands as new issues arise during the year.
Cass County's list of issues they want the Legislature to consider in 2019 include continuing to fund paved bicycle trails.
Administrator Joshua Stevenson said because vehicle transportation is an issue for many residents here, younger people use these bike trails as their primary mode of getting around, while older people use golf carts to get them around on trails as well.
Stevenson noted some residential treatment funding ended in May 2018, making mental health funding another key county concern.
He noted counties have been trying since 1998 to get an increase from 10 percent to 20 percent for the share of state sales tax collected on Indian reservations that is paid to counties. Currently, 50 percent goes back to the reservation from which it is collected and 10 percent to the county where it is located, with the state retaining 40 percent. The state should take less, the county believes.
Cass County and Leech Lake Reservation have both approved letters to the Legislature this year supporting that change, Stevenson noted.
On property taxes, Cass County would like to see the state establish a reserve fund from which to pay for court-ordered reduction in taxes, especially those involving utilities. The state sets those valuations, so it should pay for any error cause by an excess valuation, the county believes.
Currently, when a court rules a state-set property value should be reduced, it means the county, township, city or school district has to refund the tax overpayment to the property owner. There are now cases being heard in court, which could cause huge losses in tax revenue for some local governments where there is a large utility presence, Stevenson noted.
He said Cass would like to see the state amend the Community Corrections Act to remove the population limit where a county has the options in how their probation program is structured. Currently, only counties with fewer than 30,000 population can have the option.
Cass supports continuing to use Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage funds to protect forest habitat and provide access to public lands, Stevenson said.
He also noted many rural areas like Cass prefer to vote in person at their precinct, but the state has proposed only mailed balloting for the 2020 Presidential primary.
Second publication rights after Brainerd Dispatch.