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Jim Monroe: Let’s keep budget debate honest

The recent commentary by David Olson of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce did not tell the whole story about how Gov. Dayton’s budget affects the business community. Rather than giving readers the full story of what is proposed for business, the Chamber decides to cherry pick one portion of the governor’s plan to undermine the whole budget.

Why did the Chamber’s commentary omit the disclosure of $1 billion in spending on Minnesota businesses and job creation in Gov. Dayton’s budget?

As part of that billion dollars, why not highlight the $346.5 million reduction in unemployment taxes? Why forget to mention the $30 million investment in supporting businesses and jobs in Greater Minnesota or the $25 million investment in the Minnesota job creation fund? How about referring to the corporate tax cut, a 14 percent rate reduction which is the largest in 26 years? Why not include the property tax cuts for businesses? Or the sales taxes for online businesses which has the support of Minnesota business community?

The main foundation of the governor’s plan is fairness. The governor has also been very clear in his call for shared sacrifice from all Minnesotans to finally tackle a decade long cycle of chronic budget deficits. Gov. Dayton was right when he said “trying to cut our way to a better Minnesota is a failed experiment.”

Over the last decade, many middle class Minnesotans sacrificed their quality of life as they faced sky rocketing property taxes, falling home values and either “underemployment,” which means they were working for less, or unemployment.

However, in the last decade, business leaders have not sacrificed at all. In 2011, Minnesota’s top CEOs saw their pay rise 26 percent with their average pay above $1 million. These are the same people who were also benefitting from a lower income tax rate than middle class Minnesotans.

Is it fair for the governor to ask corporations to sacrifice a bit so we can invest in our children to ensure an educated and skilled workforce? Yes it is. Is it responsible to make tough decisions to restore budget stability and protect our quality of life? Again, we believe it is. It makes good business sense.

Finally, in the spirit of fairness, the Chamber should be open in its support about what is right with Gov. Dayton’s proposal, and where they disagree, offer a balanced proposal as an alternative.

Let’s stop the games and have an honest debate about how to build a better Minnesota.

Jim Monroe is executive director of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, a 13,000-member union of state employees.