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Editorial: Elected officials need to get tax agreement done

Earlier this year Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton attended a press event designed to celebrate the passage of federal legislation that would finally allow a new St. Croix River bridge to be constructed.

But while making a few comments on the matter at hand, Dayton let something slip that shocked Wisconsin legislators who were in attendance.

Dayton said the two neighboring states had come to an apparent agreement to reinstate the recently ended tax reciprocity program that allowed residents who live in one state and work in the other to file just one state tax return each year.

The previous reciprocity agreement was in effect for decades -- until then Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty ended the arrangement because Wisconsin's payments to Minnesota were too slow in coming.

Since Pawlenty's action, Wisconsin officials have been pushing for a new agreement that would bring a quicker payment to Minnesota and yet continue to save taxpayers time and money.

Dayton's apparent announcement in March was news to those actively seeking a new reciprocity agreement, although those legislators were thrilled that the necessary approvals might be close at hand.

Alas, Dayton's words turned out to be a bit premature.

Earlier this month State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) and State Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) sent a joint letter to Dayton and Minnesota Department of Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans urging them to reinstate the program as soon as possible.

If the agreement can be reactivated this fall, taxpayers won't face the extra cost and hassle of filing Minnesota and Wisconsin tax returns in 2013. About 80,000 people who live in one state and work in the other are now affected by the lack of a reciprocity agreement.

Several hurdles remain before an agreement can be reached, it appears, but it's time to devote extra time to the issue so a deal can be worked out.

Politicians and businesses on both sides of the St. Croix River agree that the reciprocity debate is an important one for this region and it isn't a partisan debate. There are plenty of Democrats and just as many Republicans who see the value in such an agreement. So it makes no sense that it's taken several years to push the topic to the front of Minnesota's political agenda.