Business means business on tax bill

There may be no party more conflicted by the deadlock at the Capitol — other than the Legislature itself — than the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

The group was key in getting a Vikings stadium bill moving again last month, when the plan was languishing in Senate and House committees. But now the stadium is tied up with their other priority: a bill that cuts taxes for businesses. Republicans and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton are locked in a “you first” staredown over the issue.

The highlight of the Republican tax bill on the table right now is freezing statewide business property taxes. Dayton said this morning he won’t accept that because of the cost to the state treasury in future yearsand nixed it in his counter offer to the GOP yesterday.

“There’s no property tax business reduction in our proposal, because the tails on that are enormous,” Dayton said. “All of their tails would be about $145 million in the next biennium.” Dayton says the state can’t afford that.

But Minnesota Chamber President David Olson says it may be that the state can’t afford not to.

“I think the bottom line is to send a signal to Minnesota businesses that we care and that we realize the economy is tough. And that’s where we’re hoping the governor and the legislative leadership can get get in a room and say, you know, how can we send a signal here, how do we pass a tax bill so we can get to work on a bonding bill and a stadium bill?” Olson said in an interview this morning. “You know, it’s that time a year when all sides should be negotiating, and I think we’re urging all sides to do exactly that.”

But what about that property tax phase out? Is that a must have?

“I think it is,” Olson said.

“Everybody realizes these are tight budget times,” he added. “So I don’t think the business community or the Republicans in the House and Senate for that matter, are overreaching here. I think they’ve shown a willingness to negotiate, and we’re encouraging the governor to negotiate. Get everybody in a room, figure it out and go home.”

For the time being, however, there are no meetings scheduled between the two sides. And what about the stadium bill? Olson says the tax bill has to be first in line.

“I’m convinced you need a vote on a tax bill and a passage of a tax bill before you’re going to pick up enough votes for a stadium, and that’s where things are colliding. I think there are some folks that have a broader agenda than just a stadium.”

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