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New Minnesota bills favor business

Business-friendly bills are the first ones of the 2011 Minnesota legislative session.

The first bills introduced in each legislative session signal priorities, and Republicans who took House and Senate control in the Nov. 2 election said last week that they are doing what they promised in the campaign: Improve the business climate so more people can be hired.

House File 1, introduced by rookie Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, sets a goal of the state issuing environmental permits within 150 days. The bill establishes a goal and requires agencies to report if the state misses the goal.

Senate File 1 is what sponsors call a "jobs bill" to cut business income taxes and streamline state business regulations. Despite it being the first bill in the chute, author Sen.

Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said he does not expect its details to be worked out until near the May 23 legislative adjournment date.

Supporters and opponents alike called the bills symbolic.

President David Olson of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce admitted that "working out the details is going to be tough." However, he added, "it's refreshing somebody is trying to send a positive message."

"Cutting the corporate income tax rate is totally symbolic," Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said. "I don't think it does anything to create jobs."

The $200 million in business tax cuts just would add to the state's $6.2 billion deficit, Bakk said.

It is a rare honor for a freshman to be allowed to author the first bill introduced in a session, but Fabian is one of 33 newly elected Republicans who gave the GOP control.

"The permitting process takes too long," Fabian said, but could not guess how many jobs could be created if it took less time.

Fabian said he is tired of seeing jobs in his northwestern Minnesota area move to North Dakota.

"If we don't even try, how are we going to succeed?" Fabian asked.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republicans agree that state permits take too much time to grant, in some cases years.

State permits are required for projects ranging from expanding mines to digging water wells.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.