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City's sales tax option extended

WORTHINGTON -- For now, at least, city leaders in Worthington are pursuing a local option sales tax referendum in November. But District 22A Rep. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, announced Sunday afternoon that the window of opportunity has opened wider.

The Legislature signed off on a tax bill early Sunday morning, Magnus said, that allows Worthington the option of waiting until 2006 to place the referendum on the local ballot.

For months, city officials had been debating whether to address the referendum this year or wait -- not knowing whether the Legislature would approve an extension -- and are fully aware that the Worthington school district is planning an operating referendum of its own. During a special work session last week, Worthington City Council members discussed placing the local option sales tax on the November ballot to consider construction of a new community/events center and upgrades to the Memorial Auditorium and Performing Arts Center.

State lawmakers still had work to do Sunday before wrapping up the 2006 legislative session, but Magnus announced he was pleased with the efforts made.

"This year was much better working in a bipartisan fashion. Both parties were working closely together in the end," he said.

Magnus was particularly pleased with a tax bill that included an increase on the cap on homestead credits for agricultural land -- a "permanent tax relief" measure, he said, and one for which he fought hard.

Responding to comments made earlier in the day by Minority Leader Matt Entenza that Republicans failed to deliver on property tax relief and additional funding for schools and health care, Magnus pointed to an infusion of more than $800 million for schools last year, plus another $700 million more this year through the expedition of payments. Funding for rural schools, he said, remains a problem because the formula, based on enrollments, hasn't changed and wasn't likely to change in this, a non-budgeting year.

Republicans and Democrats differ over how best to provide property tax relief, Magnus explained, but the GOP remains committed to giving money back to taxpayers. As for health care issues, he said a workable package fell apart in the Senate after some Republicans inserted amendments stipulating that no state money would go toward abortions.

"The Senate never got a health care package together, because they never wanted to bring one to the floor because of the abortion debate," Magnus said.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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