By Martiga Lohn
St. Paul, Minn. (AP) — Newly in charge, Republicans steering the Minnesota Legislature signaled their top goals Monday through their first bills — one that would cut business taxes and speed up approval of business permits and another that would clear the way for construction of new nuclear power plants.
The GOP majorities have made creating jobs their priority, but they refused to estimate how many jobs the proposals would bring.
Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said the corporate tax cuts would reduce costs for businesses, while tighter deadlines for permitting would give them more certainty. Supporters of the bill to lift a state moratorium on new nuclear power plants also say the change eventually would keep energy jobs close to home while dealing with the state’s future energy needs.
“We want to make Minnesota the best place to start a business and expand a business,” Michel said at a news conference attended by dozens of his GOP Senate colleagues. “We want to plant a flag at every border that our state is open for business again and that we will do anything to help a job creator.”
Michel’s jobs bill would cut the state’s 9.8 percent corporate income tax in half by 2017 and freeze the statewide business property tax at its 2009 level, for a combined $200 million in tax cuts. The legislation also would direct the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources to aim to rule on environmental permits within 150 days of an application.
House Republicans were slated to outline their first bills focused on jobs and the budget later Monday.
Minnesota is running a $6.2 billion shortfall for the next two years. Unemployment stands at 7.1 percent.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk criticized Michel’s bill for widening the deficit, and Bakk questioned whether the tax cuts would lead to any business expansion. He said nearly half the corporate income tax cut would go to companies based outside
Minnesota, while the business tax cuts would force more spending cuts as lawmakers contemplate deep reductions.
“I would say it’s totally symbolic, that it’s going to do nothing for Minnesota’s economy,” said Bakk, DFL-Cook.
Michel said the bill’s cost would be covered by spending reductions his caucus plans to identify later in the session.
He predicted the proposal could end up as part of end-of-session negotiations between the Republican-led Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. But Michel promised to give the bill its first hearing within a week in the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee that he leads.