From the Archives: Iron Range Delegation asks Governor Dayton to veto anti-Range Republican tax bill

(originally published on May 18, 2011)

In yet another attempt to avoid public scrutiny, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the Omnibus Tax Bill (HF 42) during the wee hours Wednesday morning. The Republicans do in fact have ample reason to be ashamed of the bill, for it contains onerous provisions that directly target the people of the Iron Range. One would pilfer $60 million from the Douglas J. Johnson Economic Protection Trust Fund, a business development fund that derives its revenue from the tax on production of taconite paid by the mining companies in lieu of property taxes. And apparently stealing Range property tax revenue isn’t enough for the Republicans, for another provision takes aim at reducing the taconite tax by freezing it at levels when the demand for steel was low. IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich estimates that the agency will lose approximately $20 million in the next biennium as a result, money that will not be available for economic development and diversification of the region’s economic base.

In other words, the Republicans are requiring just three percent of the state’s population to give up their property tax revenue and to disproportionately fund the state’s budget reductions while at the same time making a significant cut to that same revenue stream and guaranteeing the region’s major industry windfall profits as it removes a non-renewable resource.

Sounds reasonable.

The Iron Range Delegation sent the following letter to Governor Mark Dayton urging him to veto HF 42:

We the undersigned members of the Iron Range Delegation of the Minnesota Legislature, are writing to call your attention to the following provisions of the omnibus tax bill that punish the Iron Range.

First of all, the Republicans confiscated our local property tax by taking $60 million from the Taconite Economic Protection Fund. As you know, Article X Section 6 of or Constitution clearly states that taconite production taxes are in lieu of local property taxes. Secondly, they froze the escalator which was agreed upon with the mining industry at the time when taconite pellet prices are at an all time high. Governor, the mining companies’ profits are at record levels. Finally, they eliminated the small amount of money that we appropriated in statute for the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) and the Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, both of which are very beneficial to the people of the Iron Range.

Clearly, Governor, the attacks by the Republican Majority on all the DFL areas of the state are an embarrassing way to govern and set a new low in public policy for the state of Minnesota.

We respectfully request that you veto the omnibus tax bill and ask that you mention our issues in your veto message.

Republican Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick of Grand Rapids is the only member of the Iron Range Delegation who did not sign the letter. McElfatrick did, however, previously join the Delegation in denouncing the raid on the DJJ fund.

On Tuesday’s edition of MPR’s Midday program, Governor Dayton clearly voiced his displeasure about the assault on the Iron Range’s economic development fund:

It’s terribly wrong and it’s unacceptable.

Rep. Rick Nolan backtracks on support for PolyMet permitting bill

Northern Minnesota is known for its great fishing, so perhaps it’s fitting that tracking 8th District Congressman Rick Nolan’s position on a bill that deregulates the mining industry and fast tracks the permitting process for PolyMet is a bit like watching a fish flopping around on a dock: first he’s against it, then he’s for it and now he once again opposes it, this time promising to vote against the legislation if it “comes anywhere near close to becoming law.”

Nolan made that assurance while addressing the audience at the Climate Change Forum held at the University of Minnesota, Duluth on Nov. 16, 2013.

We reported in September that Nolan stunned many by voting for National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, mining industry-backed legislation that he blasted both Democrat Jeff Anderson and Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack for supporting and promised never to vote for if elected to congress.

Nolan’s sudden reversal of his position that proposed mining projects must meet environmental rules as currently written in order to be permitted and subsequent vote to assist right-wing Republicans in their efforts to deregulate yet another industry was among the issues attendees wanted to discuss with their congressman. But getting answers to their concerns proved difficult and when pressed, Nolan often contradicted himself. For example, he initially claimed HR 761 does not gut environmental protections (contrary to what he asserted on the campaign trail), but simply changes the “regulatory regime” just as was done in the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013 and went on to discuss how Cirrus Aviation benefits from that legislation. But when later questioned if his flip-flop on the issue is a sign that he’s taking support from environmentalists for granted, Nolan finally acknowledged that HR 761 does indeed gut environmental protections, and made this promise:

I assure you if and when that legislation (HR 761) comes to anywhere near close to becoming law as I said then, I will not vote for anything that is going to degrade our environment and that’s my position and it has always been my position and I’m sticking with it.

When asked to clarify Congressman Nolan’s position on HR 761, Communications Director Steve Johnson replied “original statement still stands.”

The reaction of those who gathered in Bohannon Hall on that Saturday afternoon is perhaps best summed up by 32-year-old Jesse Peterson, who characterized Nolan’s responses and actions with respect to HR 761 as “incredibly deceptive and reflecting a willingness to be phony.”