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Capitol Chatter: Wisconsin invitations don’t bother Minnesotans

ST. PAUL – Minnesota officials do not appear worried that businesses are about to flee to Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, issued a tweet last month that set up a mini-border battle: “In ‘11, IL raised taxes on income by 66 percent and businesses by 46 percent. Now MN Gov is proposing a $2 bil tax increase. WI is Open for Business.”

Democratic Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton shot back in his Wednesday night State of the State address in talking about job growth around the country: “Wisconsin, which by the way is open for business, helped bring up the rear at 42nd. And, help spread the word across the St. Croix, their unemployment rate last month was 20 percent higher than ours, while our per capita income was 12 percent higher than theirs.”

Minnesota House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, grew up in Wisconsin, but is happy with Dayton’s proposals to increase taxes by $3.7 billion, although $1.5 billion would be returned in the form of property tax rebates, while upping spending by $2 billion.

“Wisconsin is saying, ‘We are open for business,’ but Minnesotans are staying here,” Murphy said.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said that when South Dakota erected signs inviting Minnesota businesses there a few years ago, “we didn’t see an exodus of people to South Dakota.”

A Duluth native who is a Wisconsin legislator is involved in the border battle.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that Wisconsin Rep. Erik Severson, R-Osceola, sent an open letter to Minnesota businesses urging them to relocate across the border in response to Dayton’s recent budget proposal.

“(Dayton) does not seem to understand that high taxes drive businesses out – out of business and out of his state,” Severson said in the letter. “Fortunately, your neighbors to the east are ready to welcome your business with open arms and low taxes.”

State speech follow

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s State of the State address was a big deal in the Capitol, but not so much elsewhere as he proposed no new initiatives.

Some nuggets:

– He mostly used his 48 minutes to promote his budget and tax plans.

– Something that even many in the Capitol do not know is that Dayton wrote his own speech, as always does. While he bounced ideas off of his staff, he did not use a speech writer.

– The governor-written speech was longer than his two earlier ones.

Republicans generally made it quite clear that they did not like most of what Dayton said, but GOP Sen. Scott Newman of Hutchinson emailed a note to his constituents that did not specifically state his opposition.

With a link to the speech, Newman said: “If you are a business owner, read it. If you work in the private sector, read it. If you pay taxes, read it. If you receive benefits from the state, read it.”

Then he added: “I would like to hear from you and what you think of supporting his $2 billion budget and tax increase. Are his arguments valid or partisan? Are his figures correct or spun?”

Senators want connection

Minnesota’s two U.S. senators say more than 226,000 state residents do not have access to broadband internet service, and asked the Federal Communications Commission chairman to take action.

“Without access to high speed Internet in rural Minnesota, clinics can’t communicate with specialists, farmers can’t check market prices, small businesses can’t sell their products online,” Franken added. “Folks in greater Minnesota are entitled to the same quality of Internet access as people living in cities. Expanding broadband in Minnesota will continue to be one of my top priorities.”

Last year, Klobuchar and Franken helped secure $11 million in broadband funds to provide high speed Internet access to over 14,000 households that were previously unserved in Minnesota.

Also, Klobuchar says proposed FCC rules would help strengthen rural phone service in Minnesota.

“Call completion problems hurt small businesses trying to be competitive and families trying to stay connected, and these issues have continued for far too long,” Klobuchar said. “The FCC’s proposed rules are an important step in the right direction, and I will continue to work to ensure the rural communities have the reliable phone service they deserve.”

Starting to legislate

Minnesota legislators have been busy learning about state departments during committee meetings, but on Monday they may begin to pass bills a month into this year’s session.

House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said the full House Monday is expected to debate expanding Medical Assistance, the state’s Medicaid program, to cover 35,000 more Minnesotans.

Also up for House debate will be a measure to change state tax laws to allow the same breaks that new federal tax laws allow. The Senate has yet to schedule a vote on that measure, even though some Minnesotans already are filing tax returns that may need to be amended if lawmakers do not act quickly.

Representatives also will deal with their internal rules on Monday, with Republicans likely to put up an argument about provisions such as one requiring any amendments to bills be presented 24 hours before debate.

The House on Thursday is expected to debate contracts with state employee unions. The Senate passed it Thursday.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.