Living here in Minnesota, we often hear opposing views, backed up by various tidbits of data, that at one moment indicate how excellent our state is, what a leader it is, and the lofty quality of life we enjoy here. On that front, Minnesota is seen as particularly progressive among its 49 peers, and in that sense progressive isn’t necessarily a partisan political term, just a positive term.

    Living here in Minnesota, we often hear opposing views, backed up by various tidbits of data, that at one moment indicate how excellent our state is, what a leader it is, and the lofty quality of life we enjoy here. On that front, Minnesota is seen as particularly progressive among its 49 peers, and in that sense progressive isn’t necessarily a partisan political term, just a positive term.

    But the next moment, especially in cities like Crookston that are close to the border, we hear about how regressive Minnesota is, especially when it comes to burdensome regulations on business and industry, and the fact that Minnesota is a “high-tax” state essentially across the board.

    Those on the Minnesota-is-progressive side of the debate would argue that it’s those regulations that keep business and industry in line and consumers and citizens protected, and it’s all that tax revenue that directly boosts the state’s quality of life.

    The other side of the argument, especially when it comes to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce advocating on behalf of businesses and industries in the state tiny in size to huge, is that all those regulations and all those taxes choke out progress and, in the worst case, force businesses to look at other, less-burdensome states for their relocation potential. In border cities like Crookston, so close to North Dakota, the relocation possibility alarm screams in louder fashion, pro-business advocates like the Chamber warn.

    With Minnesota legislators recently on break before heading back to St. Paul to do important work that remains undone, Minnesota Chamber leaders visited communities across the state, and among their stops was the Crookston Daily Times, where Crookston Chamber Executive Director Amanda Lien was joined by representatives of some local businesses who are also members of the Chamber board.

    To his credit and maybe the Minnesota Chamber’s overall credit, Jim Pumarlo seems to get it. Unlike what happens more often than not among our elected representatives in St. Paul, the Minnesota Chamber knows it’s not going to get anything near what it wants to get out of the legislature this session, and basically every session. That’s especially the case with Democrat Mark Dayton as governor, presiding over a Republican-controlled, business-friendly legislature.

    So, yes, Pumarlo and the Chamber have all kinds of emails to send with all kinds of attached documents that state their case for this and that. And in his visit to the Times, he handed out even more documents. But Pumarlo and the Chamber are smart enough to hone in on the things they think really would resonate with Minnesotans if they knew more about them…and things that make sense for legislators to consider.

    Like the “Business Property Tax” for instance. Sure, the Minnesota Chamber might like to see it go away entirely, but the agency is not openly asking for that right now. Instead, it’s drawing attention to an automatic annual “inflator” that increases the amount of property taxes businesses pay directly to the state – beyond what they pay to their city, county and school district – that simply goes into the state coffers. Many businesspeople probably don’t even know what the tax is, Pumarlo said, much less how high it is – on average, 30 percent of their total annual property tax bill – or that it goes up automatically each year.

    The case in favor of this tax and the automatic inflator is simply not good. The tax dates back to 2002, but the revenue was at first dedicated to education. The “dedicated” component went away eventually, and now the money just goes into the general fund. With a general fund budget of more than $40 billion, Pumarlo says removing the inflator would reduce the GF by $45 million in the first year. That’s not much.

    Dayton likes the inflator, Pumarlo says, but legislators in the House and Senate seem to think that the automatic increase, requiring no vote, is a bit out of line with what most would see as good governance. So the legislature just might do away with it this year.

    It seems like a wise move.