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OUR VIEW: For sake of workers, hammer out a new tax reciprocity deal

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opinion River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Every day thousands of Minnesota and Wisconsin workers, including many from western Wisconsin, cross the state line to get to their jobs and then cross again to return home.

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And every April each and every one of them grumbles under their breath as they file income tax returns in both states, a confusing, time-consuming, they're-certain-they're-getting-cheated-out-of-money proposition.

That's every year since 2009. That's the year an agreement between the two states allowing border-crossing employees to file only one annual tax return -- logically, in their home state -- was disputed and then abandoned.

The two states have been working since then -- or kind of working -- to hammer out a new deal, one each can agree is equitably fair, or at least equitably acceptable. But no new agreement has been reached. We keep hearing rumors of agreements, but no deal appears imminent.

The hang-ups at the heart of the impasse and inaction are complicated and confusing, as are most arguments over money.

It seems Wisconsin's income taxes are higher than Minnesota's for most middle-income workers, and Wisconsin is asking Minnesota to subsidize those higher taxes. That's according to Minnesota and a commentary published in Minnesota last month from Minnesota Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans.

Wisconsin countered in a commentary of its own recently, that Minnesota "is now making an unreasonable demand for additional compensation," as Wisconsin Revenue Secretary Richard G. Chandler wrote.

Both sides insist they're being reasonable and fair and looking out only for the poor border-crossing workers caught in the dispute. Both sides dismiss such claims from the other.

Minnesota's Frans said in an interview recently that the two sides are $6 million apart. If $6 million is too much, he asked, well, what would be acceptable to Wisconsin to get a deal done?

"They want us to pay that $6 million difference; $6 million is a lot of money," Frans said. "But we're happy to talk."

Talk. And will the two sides please do that? Now? Before the next tax-filing season?

Thousands of workers who daily cross between Wisconsin and Minnesota to work are the ones penalized by the inability to compromise and negotiate. They're convinced they're losing money, and they probably are -- along with losing a little more of their sanity every time they have to fill out an additional tax return.

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