Pine County Board Chair Josh Mohr testified before the Minnesota Senate Tax Committee in support of a bill that would modify the split of sales taxes collected from Indian casinos.
Under the current law, sales taxes collected from casinos are split evenly between the State of Minnesota and the tribe that operates the casino. Of that 50% the state receives, 10% of the money collected is given by the state to the county in which the casino is operating from.
Senator Jason Rarick has co-authored a bill, SF 1592, that would increase the percentage that counties receive from 10% to 20% while leaving the portion kept by the tribe untouched.
Commissioner Mohr spoke in support of SF 1592 and detailed how the additional funding collected would benefit Pine County.
In his speech before the Tax Committee, Mohr spoke to the importance of Grand Casino Hinckley, which is owned by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, is as a facet of the community and as a major employer for the county. He said, "Grand Casino Hinckley is in Pine County. It and the band’s other commercial ventures make the band the largest employer in the county. Hosting a casino can have has positive impacts as it creates jobs and draws visitors."
However, Mohr noted that casinos provide an additional burden on the counties they are hosted in due to an increase in traffic and crime brought in by outsiders, and the jobs provided by the casino are usually part-time and have lower wages because of the trends within the hospitality industry.
According to a report from the Department of Revenue, Pine County was paid $78,016 of the $1.5 million collected in taxes from casinos. An increase in the county's portion would provide an additional $78,000 which Mohr said would be used on underfunded programs, specifically in the areas of child protection and law enforcement.
Commissioner Mohr concluded that the funds that modified split, though small, would greatly impact Pine County which has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the State of Minnesota. "In total, these dollar amounts are relatively small for both the county and the state. However, Pine County can use the additional funding to directly improve service delivery," said Mohr.