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Capitol Chatter: $30 million appears headed to help businesses grow

Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben of the Department of Employment and Economic Development says on Friday that loaning expanding or new businesses money produces a good return on the inivestment. Don Davis | Forum News Service

ST. PAUL – Legislative leaders say the governor has a good chance of getting $30 million he wants included in the next two-year budget to help businesses move to Minnesota or expand.

The Minnesota Investment Fund provided more than 600 loans, some of which do not need to be repaid, since 1985. Rural businesses received $85 million while those in the Twin Cities were given $24 million.

“It’s a major priority,” said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, who leads a key economic development committee.

Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben of the Minnesota Employment and Economic Development Department said many other states provide financial incentives for expanding and relocating businesses, but Minnesota has only had $7 million available for 53 businesses since 2005. Some states spend several times that amount every year.

Tomassoni said it is tough to compete against the $200 million Texas can use as bait and $50 million that Michigan has available.

“We are willing to do anything we can do” to bolster economic development, Tomassoni said.

Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, agreed. He said he has heard a lot about the need to offer businesses incentives.

Sieben said the $30 million her boss, Gov. Mark Dayton, wants would help businesses create 7,000 to 10,000 jobs.

Sieben invited two businessmen to talk to reporters. They said that the state loans influenced their decisions to expand in Minnesota.

“Other states do have opportunities...” Rick Burton of Aspen Research in Maple Grove said. “It’s something that we considered.”

Gun bill chances

Gun control supporters could fire a blank in their attempt to require all buyers of handguns and semi-automatic weapons to undergo background checks.

“It’s going to be tough to get the votes to pass that,” Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said.

Many rural Democrats are expected to join Republicans in opposing the gun legislation.

While Bakk said he can see requiring people to undergo background checks when they make gun show purchases, he questioned requiring private sales to do the same.

Bakk, who has said his gun cabinet is full, said he did not know how he would vote.

A spirited exchange

House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, predicts a spirited exchange Monday when representatives debate whether to establish a health care exchange.

The exchange is on a fast track to give state officials time to set up the mostly online health insurance sales operation. Either the state will establish the exchange or federal officials say they will do it to meet new federal health care law requirements.

Murphy said representatives have heard 43 hours of testimony and considered 63 amendments as the bill was considered by nine committees in the first two months of the legislative session.

The bill’s Senate version also had made its way through nine committees. Senators expect to debate the bill Thursday.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said that unless the bill is changed, he would only expect a single GOP vote for it Monday. Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said he could see no “yes” votes from his caucus.

Republican leaders complained that Democrats who control the Legislature accepted no GOP amendments.

Look to tax ‘Plan C’

Most businesses do not like Dayton’s proposal to expand the sales tax to goods and services businesses buy and sale.

Most fellow Democrats have refused to embrace the plan and long lines of business representatives have lined up to testify in front of tax committees against the Dayton plan.

“I’m waiting to see how this shakes out,” Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said.

Tomassoni and other Democratic-Farmer-Laborite leaders say Dayton is willing to make changes in his tax proposal.

“He is open to Plan C,” Tomassoni said.

So far, Democrats have brought up no options to replace Dayton proposals that attracted the most criticism.

DFL legislative leaders plan to meet with a key business group in coming days as they look into the Dayton plan.

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.