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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
Chamber: Legislature should focus on jobs
PHOTO: Bill Blazer
Minnesota’s largest business organization will closely watch state lawmakers to ensure they focus on creating jobs during the 2013 legislative session, its public affairs expert said Tuesday in Duluth.
In particular, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce will monitor proposed spending so it doesn’t grow unnecessarily while legislators consider tax reform, said Bill Blazer, senior vice president of public affairs and business development.
“Everyone campaigned on creating jobs. The legislature should pass laws to accomplish that,” he said at the morning Forvm event co-sponsored by the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce and Duluth News Tribune.
Last month, they hosted a similar presentation at which Minnesota Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans outlined Gov. Mark Dayton’s hopes for state spending and tax reform in the midst of a $1.1 billion deficit. Dayton wants to set priorities to limit public expenditures and to increase the portion of state revenues obtained through sales taxes. Blazer said the governor also leans toward shifting taxes toward income rather than property taxes.
“We likely will disagree with some of the things the governor proposes, but he’s certainly done his homework” on tax reform, said Blazer, who also credited Dayton’s choice of Frans, an experienced tax attorney, for revenue commissioner.
The Minnesota Chamber also wants lawmakers to continue Dayton’s initiative to streamline the environmental permitting process, Blazer said. Although Minnesota is not the only state in which it takes too long to get permits, “it’s a matter of some urgency” to improve the process, he said.
Another watch list issue is the unfolding Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange. State officials are leaning toward incorporating publicly-funded “navigators” into the system to help users interpret policies and prices.
“We could have hundreds of navigators and not use the existing infrastructure,” Blazer said, referring to existing brokers employed by insurance providers. The insurance industry favors using their own employees to explain what their policies offer.
Blazer advocated legislative review of Public Utility Commission policies, advocating the PUC require energy rates to more accurately reflect the cost structure. He said commercial/industrial customers shouldn’t pay a higher rate that subsidizes homeowners. Blazer acknowledged, however, that homeowners can vote but businesses can’t, which could derail such legislation.
On related topics, Blazer said:
• To best serve community needs, the legislature should consider a better method to determine how local government aid is distributed.
• Minnesota’s primary election, previously conducted in September but moved up last year to August, garnered a poor turnout and should be held even earlier, such as June.
• A bonding bill of up to $500 million may emerge during this session even though it’s not a bonding year.
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