Scott Honour, one of four Republican primary candidates for governor, on Monday released a jobs and economic plan that calls for rolling back future minimum wage increases, making Minnesota a “right-to-work” state, cutting tax rates and reducing regulations.
The business executive pledged to lower individual and corporate tax rates, eliminate special interest loopholes and estate taxes that Honour said hurt small business and farm operators. He said the state should end “compulsory unionism,” which typically prohibits unions from requiring employees to join the union or pay union dues. He also pledged to “end MNsure,” the state health care exchange that now is providing coverage to 95 percent of Minnesotans and enact tort reform that would require losers in a court contest to pay the fees of those they sued.
In a nearly half-hour news conference, Honour offered an outline of the plan, saying he would speed business permitting processes and create a citizen review board to examine proposed regulations. Those that would cost the state more than $5 million would require legislative approval.
“We’re a state with great potential. We have great resources. We have terrific people,” Honour said. “But we’re seeing that talent not being used in the best way possible.”
Honour also was critical of the state’s business and tax climate, saying it is causing companies to leave Minnesota. He cited Advance Auto Parts Inc., a Roanoke, Va.-based firm, that late last year announced a $2 billion acquisition of General Parts International Inc., which was based North Carolina. Since then, Advance Auto Parts has begun restructuring the company, including relocating its corporate office — with about 100 jobs — from Bloomington to Raleigh, N.C.
A spokeswoman for Advance, however, said in an e-mailed statement that the company did not leave because of the state’s business climate. The company said in a statement this summer that the move was intended in part to “strengthen collaboration among corporate team members” and “facilitate more efficient decisionmaking.”
Pressed by a reporter to name another company that has left the state, Honour mentioned software distribution firm Navarre Corp., which last year moved its corporate headquarters from New Hope to Dallas. The move did not surprise analysts, who said last spring that the company’s revenues had been sliding for years and that it relocated in part to focus on its e-commerce business.
Honour’s plan comes about a week before the Aug. 12 primary. The rookie political candidate is vying for Minnesotans’ vote in a field of candidates that include Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and former House Speaker Kurt Zellers. The winner will face DFL Gov. Mark Dayton this fall in the general election.
Stop minimum wage hikes
Flanked by running mate state Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary’s Point, a real estate agent, Honour also went after one of the DFL’s signature issues from the 2014 legislative session: a phased-in minimum wage increase. Wages for the state’s lowest paid workers rose to $8 an hour on Aug. 1 and will go to $9.50 by 2016. An estimated 325,000 Minnesotans would be see their wages rise once the increase was fully phased in. Starting in 2018, the minimum wage would be tied to the rate of inflation.
Honour said Monday that he opposes state-mandated increases to basic pay and would propose that any future hikes require legislative approval, with no automatic inflationary increases.
“What I want to see is an economy where companies raise their wages because it’s in the best interest of everyone,” he said.
Carrie Lucking, executive director of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, said in a statement that Honour’s idea to “roll back improvements to the minimum wage will take money out of working families’ pockets to line their CEO’s coffers.”
Honour’s plan also offered positions on other topics such repealing “costly” wind and solar mandates and instituting vocational and technical education in every Minnesota high school. He said he would approve both the PolyMet Mining Corp.’s proposal to extract copper and nickel from the long-closed LTV mine in Hoyt Lakes and the Sandpiper Pipeline, a $2.6 billion project to carry North Dakota crude oil across northern Minnesota into Wisconsin.
Honour said he would slash administrative spending across the board by 10 percent, including the governor’s office, and would eliminate the Metropolitan Council, a regional planning board that has guided area growth for nearly a half century. Budget surpluses, he said, would be used to fund capital investment projects rather than automatically bonding for such projects. Any proposal above $10 million, he said, would require supermajority vote of three-fifths of the Legislature.
The state’s Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act would stop, Honour said, and eligibility for the program that covers health care needs of the state’s poorest would be tightened and benefit levels reduced.
Honour also took a shot at Republicans’ budget solution for the 2011 legislative session that ended in a shutdown. The stalemate was broken when Republicans, led by Honour’s primary rival Kurt Zellers, who was House Speaker at the time, proposed balancing the budget in part by borrowing money from school districts and the state’s tobacco funds. Honour said he would end such “gimmicks and trust fund raids” and a reliance on “the usual politician accounting.” He also said that in an Honour administration, legislators who went to a shutdown would lose their pay during that time.