Lawmakers push for renewed tax reciprocity deal
The clock's ticking and the outlook's bleak for 80,000 Wisconsin and Minnesota residents who cross the border to their jobs.
Last summer Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty pulled out of a tax reciprocity deal between the two states that is 41 years old.
If a new deal isn't reached soon, commuters who work in the other state will have to file tax returns in both states starting in 2011.
Besides the inconvenience, that will mean paying extra for tax filing and, in some cases, paying more in state income taxes.
"It's good that we're continuing the dialog, but I don't want to mislead anybody as to where this will end up because it's a very long shot," said Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls). "We're in uncharted waters on this issue."
Since Pawlenty's announced pullout and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle's recent response while in Hudson that there's "nothing Wisconsin can do," Harsdorf has tried to show that there is something to be done.
She and other Wisconsin lawmakers, including local Assembly representatives Kitty Rhoades and John Murtha, have communicated with and held a work session in Woodbury, Minn., with their Minnesota counterparts.
The two sides seem interested in renewing the reciprocity agreement. Leading the legislative pack on Minnesota's side is Sen. Kathy Saltzman (DFL-Woodbury).
Wisconsin Democratic Senate Majority Leader Russell Decker has said he would support calling the Legislature into a special session in December if a new deal can be reached.
However, as Harsdorf stated, obstacles remain, especially the "uncharted waters" factor:
Here are other key points:
Harsdorf said cooperation between both states is always in the public's best interests.
"Whether it's tax reciprocity or other things, we should be collaborating because we really operate across state lines as a region," she said.
While many legislators want to bring back tax reciprocity, Harsdorf said their role is limited.
"The governor (Doyle) has said it's done, over," she said. "Since then, I don't sense a strong commitment on our side to work something out. Our administration needs to be there for that to change."
Harsdorf's legislative aide Jack Jablonski said people in Wisconsin can apply political pressure.
"We think constituents should contact the governor's office if they want to keep the agreement, and request that he get back to the table and work with Minnesota," he said. "The Legislature is intervening, but at the end of the day, we need the governor's support."
Lee Sensenbrenner, a spokesman in the governor's Madison office, said Doyle "fought hard and tried negotiating" when Minnesota first pulled out of the agreement.
"It's really in Minnesota's hands now," Sensenbrenner said. "Without a willing partner, there is only so much you can do."
Doyle's phone number is (608) 266-1212. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.