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Struggling business owners need legislators' help

The annual study comparing Minnesota commercial property taxes with other states was recently released. This report by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties shows for the umpteenth year that Minnesota is at a decidedly competitive disadvantage among its peers. Legislators have seen this data for years showing the disparity in business climate, but the graph showing tax burdens really struck me this year.

I challenge legislators to put themselves in the place of a small business owner. We are struggling -- period. It is more than disheartening to see the state's spending increase nearly five percent every year while small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open. St. Paul must realize it cannot continue down this path, because policy-makers are slowly killing the golden goose that has been laying their golden eggs. When are our leaders going to mirror what small business has had to do for a decade now? Reduce expenses while maintaining or improving service!

Instead of trying to figure out new ways to increase taxes, it's time legislators made some tough decisions and tell citizens no. It's not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

The disconnect between how government and private business operates has never been more apparent, and it is growing more and more every year. Private enterprise, specifically small business, has been the engine to drive growth and prosperity. And the lack of discipline in St. Paul is sucking the life out of our business and businesses just like ours across Minnesota.

Businesses have had to cut spending because revenues have not increased. That means reducing employee hours, freezing wages, cutting benefits and, equally important, working harder and finding greater efficiencies. It makes no sense to cut in ways that hurt your customers. State government should do likewise.

I'm frustrated. I see what I have had to do to keep my head above water and do not see the same effort by Minnesota government. How bad does it have to get before you start to look at some of these sacred cows of government -- for example, the defined-benefit retirement plans and health care plans that are far more generous than those in the private sector?

I am not asking for any more government services. More effective? Yes. But just more? No. That gives you the opportunity to reduce the cost of government -- thus reducing the need for more of my tax dollars. If that occurs, I bet you would find many businesses, large and small, creating jobs again. -- Michael J. Norby, Detroit Lakes

(Norby is president of L.J. Norby Company in Detroit Lakes.)