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Tax reform meeting is Monday in Worthington

WORTHINGTON -- Minnesota Department of Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans will host a tax reform town hall meeting at 2 p.m. Monday at the Worthington Fire Hall.

The public is invited to attend and provide input regarding fair taxation, as well as ideas for simplifying the state tax system.

Frans will begin the meetings by giving an overview of the state tax system. To do this, he'll use an uneven three-legged stool to represent the three branches of state tax revenue- income, property and sales tax. The floor will then open for discussion.

"We have heard over and over that Minnesotans want a simple tax system that ensures everyone pays their fair share," Ryan Brown, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Revenue, stated in an email Thursday. "Ideas for achieving that are part of the reason we've spent the last year traveling the state listening to local citizens."

Input has been collected from more than 20 town hall meetings throughout Minnesota.

"We know the needs of people in one part of the state are not the same as the needs in another part, so we wanted to get a wide variety of input," Brown said.

The discussions have been informative so far, stated Katharine Tinucci, Gov. Dayton's press secretary in an email Thursday.

During the governor's visit to Worthington earlier this month, Tinucci said he learned about the city's diverse population, and concluded "the people have a valuable perspective on tax reform to offer."

Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh said Frans' tax presentation is clear and easy to follow along.

In February, the governor selected Oberloh as one of 15 Minnesota mayors to take part in the Tax Reform Advisory Group for Local Government Aid (LGA).

The group meets once a month to prepare a report that will be presented to Dayton in December, Oberloh said.

One of the goals for the mayors' meetings and the town hall forums is to find specific ways to finance local services, while keeping property taxes low.

"If we have tax reform in this area, it can help make us more competitive," Oberloh said. "We're always competing with other states, and larger cities within the state."

"In order to keep ourselves viable, we have to have a tax structure that allows us to be competitive," he added. "If we can get something put together to close the corporate tax loopholes that exist, that will go a long ways toward fixing the budget deficit."

Before proposing any additional taxes, Oberloh said he would work with all parties to delve into the state budget and look for ways to eliminate overlap and regulation.

Tax reform is a bipartisan issue, Brown agreed.

"Our goal is to 'go big' in our package," he said. "By doing so, we can get everyone to have some skin in the game and be able to get some compromise on the entire package. They may not like a certain part of the plan, but if they look at the overall package, it might be something they would support."

Dayton plans to take input from the meetings and put it toward a new tax reform plan to be presented in January.

"Right now we are still in the gathering idea phase, and we haven't set anything in stone as to what the package will look like," said Brown, adding more will be determined after November.

Worthington City Administrator Craig Clark said he is thankful Dayton's administration approached local officials about setting up the meetings. He said it's a chance for the community to have their voice heard.

"The biggest thing is for people to be informed about their taxes," Oberloh said. "If people do have concerns, then they need to address them with the commissioner while he's in town. He's a very approachable man."

To sum up the meetings to date, Brown said: "We've heard a wide variety of ideas and comments. Overall people do appreciate us coming to them and listening to their ideas."

Daily Globe Reporter Kayla Strayer may be reached at 376-7322.