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Andrew Tellijohn, Forum Capitol Bureau, Published May 19 2012

Dayton frustrates Minnesota business leaders

MINNEAPOLIS – Many in Minnesota’s business community were pleased with the Legislature’s performance during the 2012 legislative session, but they are frustrated with Gov. Mark Dayton for scuttling some of their biggest goals.

Dayton closed the book on the session by vetoing a largely Republican-written bill that would have provided property tax relief for small businesses, and increased tax credits for research and development and to those who invest in start-up stage companies.

“It was a priority for the business community,” said Laura Bordelon, senior vice president of advocacy with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. “The veto is a complete disappointment.”

It was the second time in May that Dayton vetoed a tax-relief bill. He also nixed an education reform measure that would have removed seniority as the main factor in laying off teachers.

Dayton, in a letter explaining his tax veto, wrote that Republicans, who have majorities in the House and Senate, passed the bill without consulting his administration. He expressed concern the bill would increase future projected deficits. Republicans say Dayton would not meet with them.

“It retains a large imbalance between its significant business tax reductions and virtually no tax relief for anyone else: homeowners, renters, senior citizens and farmers,” Dayton wrote.

That explanation did not satisfy Bordelon or Charlie Weaver, executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership. They say Republican lawmakers incorporated many of Dayton’s suggestions into the reworked bill.

Those measures included a tax credit for businesses that hire veterans and incentives for hiring interns. The bill also would have provided thousands of jobs through the altering of tax-increment financing rules regarding a proposed expansion at the Mall of America, they say.

“It is mystifying to me why he vetoed it,” Weaver said. “I don’t understand it.”

Still, business supporters say the business community still got some of what it wanted.

For the second consecutive year, the Legislature and Dayton worked to streamline the state’s permitting process and passed a public works spending bill that is expected to create jobs for trade workers. The chamber also was happy with education reform bills requiring teachers to pass skills tests and linking principal evaluations to test results.

Weaver touted the Vikings stadium construction bill as important in ensuring the team’s future. He called efforts in some districts to punish Republicans who supported the bill by pulling their endorsements “really dumb” and said building a stadium now was more fiscally conservative than waiting another year or losing the franchise and paying considerably more for a stadium later.

“The ability to recruit top executive talent to the state requires that we remain a first-class town,” he said. “Investments in theater, music, parks and pro sports all go hand in hand. Losing an NFL franchise would have been a significant blow.”

Over two years, Weaver said, the Legislature was successful in turning a

$6 billion deficit into a

$1 billion surplus without raising taxes.

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland was disappointed with Dayton’s veto of the first tax bill because it included a property tax exclusion on the first $200,000 spent on the construction of new homes in Moorhead and Dilworth.

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Andrew Tellijohn is a Twin Cities freelance writer.