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Continued: Minnesota Legislature wasn't so bad for business

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 8, 2013 - 5:22 PM

• If you pay unemployment insurance, you got a $347 million rate reduction. (Bet you didn’t notice. Most of us in the Capitol basement didn’t.)

 If you’re in the national market for top young creative talent, you’ll be well-served by the legalization of same-sex marriage. Being among the dozen marriage equality states will be noticed by a lot of Millennials.

• If you’d rather not see a minimum-wage increase, rest easy. It didn’t pass. (It should have. But that’s another day’s column.)

Granted, seeing those pluses requires looking past some minuses. If you’re a farmer or a factory owner, you likely hate the new sales tax on equipment repairs. If you’re a third-party warehouser, you’ve likely been talking to commercial realtors in Hudson, Wis. The sales tax is due to hit you starting next April.

But business lobbyists — including Britton — were so successful in beating back other proposed sales taxes on business services that it’s hard to think they won’t be as effective in 2014 in getting these goofs out of the tax code. Dayton’s retreat from his services sales tax notions in March, well before the House and Senate tax bills were written, attests to business’s considerable Capitol clout, even when DFLers are in charge.

The Business Bigs complained about insufficient government reform in 2013. So did Britton. But reform is an eye-of-the-beholder thing. On these pages on May 22, state Chamber president David Olson said businesses want reforms that eliminate “unnecessary and wasteful spending.” It wasn’t clear what that is.

Britton was more specific: Small Business Minnesota wants to curtail tax breaks that favor big businesses over small ones. “We support closing the estimated $2 billion in corporate tax loopholes first before providing additional [corporate income] tax relief,” her organization said in a May 15 letter to lawmakers.

Clearly, not all business voices at the Capitol are singing the same song, let alone the same tune. But between now and next year’s session, these dissonant choirs would do well to find some harmony on a few things. I’ve got a list for that too. It’s a short one:

• Transportation: The political reality is that the Legislature won’t step up metro transit funding unless roads in Greater Minnesota get more too. And that, in turn, won’t happen unless businesses support a gas tax increase.

• Bonding: The backlog in state building repairs and infrastructure needs keeps getting longer in part because Republicans find it politically advantageous to oppose big bonding bills. The business community can change that.

If those things happen in 2014, Britton shouldn’t have to sing solo in praising the Legislature. And Minnesotans will have more reason to praise the business community for advocating for the public good.

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Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.

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