Editorial: Two-State Tax Reciprocity Long Overdue

For 41 years, Wisconsin and Minnesota were downright neighborly when it came to tax reciprocity.

If you lived in Minnesota and worked in Wisconsin, you could pay your income taxes to Minnesota. If you lived in Wisconsin and worked in Minnesota, you could pay your income taxes to Wisconsin.

For a border area like ours, it was a big deal. You didn’t have to file tax returns in both states. Life was good.

That changed in 2009, when Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty understandably grew tired of waiting on the Badgers to settle up with about $60 million they owed to the Gophers.

While Wisconsin finally paid up, reciprocity has been hung up because the two sides have been arguing over a difference of $6 million.

That means about 80,000 workers – about 56,000 who live in Wisconsin and work in Minnesota, and about 24,000 Minnesotans who work in Wisconsin – have been stuck with the needless inconvenience and cost of filing in two states.

During that time, we’ve emphasized the need to fix the problem and move on. We’ve emphasized it in several editorials and during discussions with governors, legislators and revenue secretaries in both states. Now, two Minnesota state legislators from our region has taken some positive steps to get the ball rolling, and it’s time for the two states to come to agreement before the frost returns.

Thanks to legislation successfully pushed in St. Paul by Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, and Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, Minnesotans who work in Wisconsin will be eligible for a reciprocity tax credit on their income tax for 2017 (total cost estimate is $8 million).

The measure also directs the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Revenue to resume negotiations on a renewed agreement with the folks in Wisconsin.

For goodness’ sake, sit down and figure this out.

It’s the right thing to do and the best thing for 80,000 people who are tired of being jerked around for no good reason.

If you the revenue directors of the two states can’t settle on a place to meet, you’re welcome to use the conference rooms in our newspapers in La Crosse and Winona. No charge for the rooms – and the coffee is free.

It’s time to put pride aside and think of what’s best for the taxpayers.

We have a regional economy. We have a mobile workforce. We have regional tourism attractions. We have contributors and volunteers who do good work on both sides of the river.

In other words, the people of our region have figured this out. It’s time for our elected officials to follow.