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Shifting the burden: Gov. Jesse Ventura of Minnesota has proposed a plan that he hopes will be the first step in a major retooling of the state's tax system.

The plan would remove funding for K-12 schools from residents' local property- tax bills and put the state in charge of 100 percent of basic education costs. The state now pays two-thirds of those costs.

"Our current system is unnecessarily complicated, its unfair, and its not keeping up with our current economy," the governor said in a statement unveiling the proposal.

Mr. Ventura, an Independent, suggests covering the state's new school finance responsibilities in a number of possible ways, including an expansion of income, sales, or other state taxes.

Under his plan, local districts would still be responsible for taxes to support such purposes as new buildings, adult education, and general operating costs that exceeded the states basic funding allotment.

While the specifics of the proposal are still in flux, members of the education community are raising questions.

"The devil is in the details," said Robert Meeks, the director of governmental relations for the Minnesota School Boards Association. The stability of school funding under the proposed changes concern district officials, he said, as well as the possibility that the state would exert greater control over districts.

"This proposal will also put the state in the business of collecting property taxes," Mr. Meeks added.

Meanwhile, the Ventura administration is taking its case to the public with a series of planned meetings with citizens.

According to Becky Christenson, the director of communications for the state revenue department, the governor plans to spell out specific provisions by the time the legislature returns for its session in January.

In the meantime, she said, many lawmakers are taking a wait-and-see approach.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 20, Issue 4, Page 17

Published in Print: September 27, 2000, as State Journal

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