I wrote a column recently about the Hottest Issues on the Campaign Trail. Among the key issues I hear most about is how to create jobs and improve Minnesota’s economy, and in the Oct. 8 column I offered several specific ways we can do that. The purpose of this column is to talk in even greater detail about those proprosals and other ideas.
Interestingly, talking in specifics about ideas is generally discouraged by political professionals. They suggest that providing specifics just opens a candidate up to criticism. Frankly, that’s exactly what I’m looking for with this column. If readers have critiques, or other ideas, this is an opportunity to share them, and I genuinely appreciate the forum that Patch provides for such an exchange.
While Minnesota and the Midwest lead the nation in job growth—far outpacing the national economy—there remains more we can do. As a small business owner myself for the past 20 years, I know firsthand there are several steps state government can take to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs in their efforts to create jobs:
- Continue to streamline the tax code and regulatory process
- Reduce or at least hold the line on small business taxes
- Maintain a high quality E-12 system to provide a top-notch workforce
- Offer effective retraining and higher education, especially for veterans
- Help contain health insurance costs
- Make higher education more responsive to real-world, real-time employer needs
Streamline the tax code and regulations. The new Target store in Inver Grove Heights is a perfect example of how streamlining the state's overly complex tax code and regulatory process can result in new jobs and economic growth. I continue to support thoughtful efforts to simplify Minnesota's tax code and regulatory requirements.
Reduce or at least hold the line on small business taxes. On a bipartisan basis, I have supported a reduction in the income tax rate for small businesses. Minnesota’s taxes on small businesses are some of the highest in the country. That’s why I have voted for and continue to support a reduction in Minnesota’s small business tax rate, even if it needs to be done over a period of a few years. Doing so will enable businesses to expand and create jobs.
Maintain a high quality E-12 system to provide a top-notch workforce. In an upcoming column, I will specifically address the inequity between low property wealth school districts—like ISD 196, 197 and 199—and high property wealth districts. With a larger number of legislators from suburban areas after this upcoming election, our ability to address this discrepancy and inequity in school funding ought to be significantly enhanced. Addressing this inequity is critical for our local students to get a high quality education as well as for holding down property taxes for local homeowners.
Offer effective retraining and higher education, especially for veterans. While Minnesota’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country, the unemployment rate among veterans is twice as high as for anyone else. Last session, with wide bipartisan support, we took a number of steps specifically to make higher education and retraining more viable, effective and affordable for Minnesota’s veterans.
Help contain health insurance costs. The National Federation of Independent Businessescommended a bipartisan law I passed that provides more flexible and affordable health insurance options for small businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs. Recently, I have been meeting with insurers to encourage them to offer health insurance products now allowed under this new law. The estimated savings are expected to be at least 20%, which will hopefully enable small businesses to invest more in growing their businesses and creating jobs.
Make higher education more responsive to real-world, real-time employer needs. We have great examples right here in Dakota County of what we need to do more of across Minnesota. At Inver Hills, the college is working directly with employers like Cisco and various hospitals to provide highly-trained, ready-to-go employees to fill good-paying jobs upon graduation. Likewise, Dakota County Technical College is working closely with employers to provide precisely the right technical skill set to graduates, so they can immediately be productive and find good jobs.
These are some proposals and ideas for improving Minnesota’s economy and creating jobs. I also welcome ideas, questions and concerns from readers, either by posting below, emailing me at Rep.Joe.Atkins@house.mn or by giving me a call at the Capitol at (651) 296-4192.