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Minnesota just can’t shake anti biz rep

For Minnesota’s business community — the folks who provide us jobs and drive much of our economy — the 2014 legislative session was a marked improvement over the previous year.

But is that saying much of anything? In 2013, recall, the Legislature approved $2.1 billion in tax increases, including taxes on businesses that aren’t charged by other states. Lawmakers also created a gift tax that was just the second of its kind in the country and slipped in a multimillion-dollar office building for the state Senate. Charlie Weaver, executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership, called it “the most anti-jobs legislature” he had ever seen.

This year, business-unfriendly business-to-business sales taxes were repealed and environmental permitting was streamlined, helping to ensure that some 11,000 of 15,000 annual permit requests from businesses are acted on in 90 days or less. Permitting tends to drag on now, to the detriment of private investment.

Regardless, the state marked its fourth-straight month of weak employment numbers in April, with 4,200 jobs lost, according to a St. Paul Pioneer Press report. And the state’s minimum wage hike, approved by DFLers this session with zero Republican support, promises to make Minnesota one of the highest minimum-wage states in the country. That includes a higher minimum wage in Minnesota than in all of the Gopher State’s neighbors — so it’ll be cheaper and easier to do business in Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota than in Minnesota.

“This session is a big disappointment overall,” National Federation of Independent Business Minnesota State Director Mike Hickey said in a statement last week. “Clearly the biggest disappointment was the dramatic increase in the minimum wage and new rights that were granted to workers to sue their employers under the Human Rights Act that were ironically placed in the women’s bill.”

Even before the minimum-wage increase, Minnesota trailed its neighboring states in business climate. The 10th-annual survey of more than 500 CEOs from around the country placed Minnesota a disappointing 30th this spring on a list of “Best and Worst States for Business.” Chief Executive magazine ranked North Dakota a far stronger 15th. Wisconsin’s business climate was nearly as strong at 17th with South Dakota right behind at 18th and Iowa at 23rd.

We can do better. The health of our economy and business community depends on it. — Duluth News Tribune