Sen. Kent Eken on Monday, March 30, tossed out the idea of abolishing state property taxes for Minnesotans.
The proposal emerged as urban and rural DFL senators hosted a virtual forum Tuesday focusing on issues, and priorities concerning rural Minnesotans.
With more than 100 participants attending the forum, Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, Sen. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, and Sen. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, answered questions from the group chat concerning health care, taxes and repairing DFL disconnect from rural Minnesota.
"It's incumbent upon us to work with our colleagues in the metropolitan area if we're going to get things done and find the votes necessary to accomplish things," said Eken. "We need to try to do more to reconnect folks in the metropolitan area, and legislators from the metropolitan area, with rural communities to understand what our issues are ... and I think that's critically important. We need understanding."
He said the one-size-fits-all model for Minnesota doesn't always work in Greater Minnesota because every small city, and town, have their own unique situation. Eken also said regulatory reform is needed to ease the burden on rural businesses.
"(Regulations) are written for the most populated part of the state," he said. "Those regulations are written for the larger businesses, our larger communities. And many of our smaller towns ... can't afford to comply with some of the regulations that were written for the biggest of the big operations. It's just not doable."
Then, Eken suggested a "bold" proposal: Phasing out property taxes in Minnesota, which, he said, can affect rural communities the hardest.
"I think we not only need to reduce property tax burdens, but I think it's time that the property tax be phased out over a period of years," he said. "Because property taxes do hit our area of the state the hardest. They hit rural areas the hardest."
He said these reforms could be a piece of creating a fairer tax system as a whole that doesn't place as much of the tax burden on lower, and middle, income families.
All three legislators agreed on an expanded version of the MN Care health insurance program without income caps, which would allow every Minnesotan to buy into the program. Eken said this would help rural Minnesotans because it would increase their health insurance options, which could lower the cost of health plans for everyone.
"It's one more option that can be put out there for people," said Eken. "Having more options, it means having more competition, and more competition means having a better quality product at a lower price. It's simple market economics here."
He said the MN Care program is really popular among Minnesotans and the approach to health care reform should expand on an already existing, popular program, instead of creating something new.
"We're all in the same boat," he said. "The metropolitan, Twin Cities area can't hope to be an island of prosperity in a sea of economic decline. We all sink, or swim, together."