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Donna Grethen, Tribune Media Services

Let's give our job creators the help they need

  • Article by: GEOFF MICHEL and TED LILLIE
  • December 12, 2011 - 8:22 PM

In athletic contests, a timeout is called to give the athletes a chance to catch their breath and to coordinate plans for the next play.

Just like an exhausted Adrian Peterson who needs a breather, Minnesota job creators, battered by the recession, are asking for a timeout from the high costs and regulations imposed by all levels of government. In short, they're asking for the opportunity to grow.

The recent state budget forecast highlights what we need to focus on: promoting private-sector growth and putting more Minnesotans back to work.

To the surprise of many, the forecast projects a surplus of $876 million for the current budget cycle.

Reduced spending, fiscal discipline and above-average economic growth in Minnesota factored into this good news. If we are to make the forecasted surplus permanent, we must continue to live within our means and not grow our government faster than our economy.

Our economy remains fragile, with predicted growth more than a full percentage point lower than projected in February. The worst thing we could do now is shock the system with Gov. Mark Dayton's tax increases and more government regulations.

We need to provide job creators some certainty that government will not keep changing the rules and raising the costs of doing business.

Members of the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee have been hearing this message all over the state. We held meetings in our home districts, sessions with local chambers of commerce, and tours of employers in St. Cloud, Eagan, Rochester and Brainerd.

These conversations focused on one question: What can we do to make Minnesota the best place to start and grow a business? This nonpartisan discussion should unite all policymakers, even in an election year.

What have we found?

Our state's private-sector job creators, risk takers and entrepreneurs are stressed out. It has been a difficult five years. They have low expectations for government at all levels.

However, a little help for job creators today would go a long way toward putting our state in position for economic recovery tomorrow.

We offer three specific suggestions to make it clear that Minnesota is making job growth a top priority:

• First, we call for a moratorium on any new state rules and regulations. The most common complaint we heard across the state is that government keeps changing the rules.

A timeout from more government rules will allow job creators to catch their breath. They would have some time to plan and budget, and would have the certainty that the state will not be adding to their burdens.

We would allow for a common-sense exception for life and health matters and for regulations in the hopper now that will actually help our jobs climate.

• Next, we need to repeal existing rules and regulations that are stifling job creation. Several states have created a process to roll back rules that are doing harm to the economy.

Earlier this year, we established a Sunset Commission, and we could further charge that body with the task of reviewing state regulations and compiling a list of outdated and antijobs mandates. This repeal list could be brought to the Legislature for an up-or-down vote and passage.

• Finally, we need to do something about the high cost of taxes in Minnesota. We need to provide immediate relief to businesses of all sizes by reducing and eliminating the statewide business property tax.

Yes, along with local government units, the state actually imposes an additional property tax on job providers. Last session, the governor vetoed our plan to reduce and eliminate this property tax.

Our neighbors in Wisconsin recently convened a special legislative session devoted to job creation. We need to take another run at this tax reform early in the 2012 session to show our job providers that Minnesota policymakers are just as eager to help.

We know that 2012 will be a loud election year. The debate over taxes and spending will surely continue, but we hope there is time for a third topic: private-sector job growth.

We can have a timeout on new rules, a repeal of old and burdensome regulations, and a property tax cut for job providers.

Let's work together and send a strong signal to job creators that Minnesota is a great home for their ideas, talents and capital.

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Geoff Michel, R-Edina, and Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo, are members of the Minnesota Senate.

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