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The checks are in the mail
By Laura McCallum
Minnesota Public Radio
August 20, 2001

For the third year in a row, rebate checks have begun arriving in Minnesotans' mailboxes. Checks totaling nearly $800 million are going out to about 3.4 million Minnesota taxpayers. But Gov. Ventura says there's no guarantee there will be a fourth round of rebate checks, and he's urging taxpayers to make sure local officials keep a lid on taxes.

Gov. Ventura announces that state rebate checks have been sent out to more than three million Minnesota taxpayers. The average rebate is $512 for a married couple or head of household, and $232 for a single filer. All eligible taxpayers should receive their checks by Labor Day.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

The Minnesota Department of Revenue has more information about the rebate program, including a calculator to find out how much your rebate will be. You can also call the Revenue Department at 651-296-4444, or 888-637-6237.
JUST BACK FROM A CALIFORNIA VACATION, GOV. VENTURA WAS EAGER to perform one of the perks of his job.

"In late summer, I get to stand here and say, the checks are in the mail."

Ventura pushed for returning surplus money in the form of a sales tax rebate, which some Minnesotans have come to call "Jesse checks." This year, the average check is $512 for a married couple or head of household, and $232 for a single filer. State officials say all eligible taxpayers should receive their checks by Labor Day. But Ventura cautions that this may be the last year of rebate checks, since the state has cut taxes and the economy has slowed.

"We are not bringing in the money that we used to bring in prior to my administration, and in light of that, and the economy, there may not be a fourth," says Ventura.

The sales tax rebate comes as many taxpayers are also getting another check in the mail from the federal government. The so-called federal rebate checks are actually advance payments of a projected federal surplus, and range from $300 to $600. The combination of state and federal checks means taxpayers will have extra cash in their pockets. But it probably won't have a major impact on Minnesota's economy, according to Louis Johnston, an economics professor at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph.

"It'll keep the growth rate from declining any more, because people have pretty much built these rebate checks into their planning for the future," says Johnston. "They've already realized that they're going to be getting this money, and so they've planned to pay off debt or make a new purchase, and they did that months ago when they heard about these rebates."

Johnston says consumer debt numbers indicate that many taxpayers are using their federal checks to pay off debts, and he expects many people will do the same with their state rebate.

Gov. Ventura says he's not about to tell Minnesotans how to spend their rebate checks - he says it's their money and they can do whatever they want with it. But Ventura is calling on taxpayers to scrutinize local government spending decisions, to protect the property tax reforms he signed into law this year. Ventura told a group of tax administrators the double-digit property tax relief could erode if citizens don't pressure local officials to hold the line on spending.

"We've made sweeping changes designed to take a big chunk out of everyone's property tax bill and all their taxes. But if the local governments and schools turn around, and want to collect more taxes to cover local issues, the people are right back where they started from," Ventura said.

Already, officials in Ramsey County and the city of Minneapolis have proposed increasing the property tax levy by more than 8 percent, although local officials say the increases are within strict limits imposed by lawmakers to protect tax cuts. Ventura wouldn't take a stand on the proposed tax hikes, because he said the property tax is now a local issue. But he said if citizens are apathetic and local taxes go up, they have only themselves to blame.