The mail survey was conducted by Star Tribune researchers in February and March and was sent to 130 publicly held Minnesota-based companies. Fifty-four companies responded, a rate of 42 percent. Not all companies responded to all questions. Overall, the views appear to represent the different industries in the state but might under-represent the views of larger companies.

1. Please rate each of the following public policy issues according to how important it is to your business.

Rankings: 3 - Very important; 2 - Important; 1 - Somewhat important; 0 - Not at all important

Economic recession 2.77

Hiring/retaining workers 2.38

Health care benefits 2.36

Federal tax rates 2.19

State tax rates 2.11

Wage rates 2.02

Education 2.0

Transportation 1.45

2. What are your company's plans for capital spending in the next 12 months?

No significant changes 44%

Decrease capital spending 43%

Increase capital spending 13%

3. What are your company's hiring plans for the next 12 months?

Keep staffing levels the same 61%

Decrease headcount 22%

Increase headcount 17%

4. Oil prices spiked at more than $145 per barrel in 2008 before falling. What effects have volatile energy costs had on your business?

Some effects 61%

Little or no effect 26%

Profound effects 13%

5. Does your business plan assume oil prices will be higher or lower a year from now?

About the same 56%

Higher a year from now 42%

Lower a year from now 2%

6. What's the single most important thing that federal and state government can do to help your company grow and add employees?

Lower taxes 64%

Address the housing crisis 27%

Increase government spending 9%

7. Businesses face pressure on many economic and political fronts. Please rank how significant these pressures are on your business.

Rankings: 3 - Significant; 2 - Not very significant; 1 - Not at all significant.

The U.S. economy 2.75

Health care 2.20

Global competition 2.12

Increased regulatory enforcement 2.08

The Minnesota economy 2.06

Energy costs 1.83

Housing slump 1.69

Privacy regulations 1.25

Terrorism 1.04

Climate change 0.88

8. Consumer spending has slowed as the recession has deepened. What effects has this had on your business?

Significant effects 40%

Some effects 39%

Little or no effects 21%

9. The credit crisis has spurred federal bailouts and spread uncertainty in global credit markets. Compared with a year ago, does your business or industry have more or less access to capital?

About the same 56%

Less access 40%

More access 4%

10. Health care costs continue to rise. Do you think the current national model, where employers provide health care benefits to their workers, will remain viable?

Yes 78%

No 22%

11. New types of health coverage, in-cluding high-deductible plans, have spread in recent years. Do you agree or disagree that these new plans are helping to reduce health care costs?

Agree 64%

Disagree 36%