Lawmakers talk business taxes at Eagles

Published 10:53 am Thursday, June 13, 2013

Business concerns and concern over taxes dominated the discussion at the Legislative Luncheon at the Eagles Club in Austin Wednesday.

Area legislators offered their views on the 2013 legislative session at the luncheon on everything from education to the upcoming Destination Medical Center project in Rochester. Yet many of the audience’s questions concerned the legislature’s latest tax initiatives.

Sens. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, and Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, joined Reps. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, Shannon Savick, DFL-Wells, and Duane Quam, R-Byron, to express concerns over policies like the give tax on farms passed or given after death, or the warehouse tax which could affect farmers storing grain starting next summer.

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Each legislator said those taxes were snuck in during the final days of the session and could adversely affect agriculture and small business in greater Minnesota.

“If there’s issues, we can go back and address those,” Sparks said.

While legislators lauded their work eliminating a $627 million state budget shortfall, Democratic legislators defended the $2 billion in overall tax increases as necessary funding for state programs.

“We’ve been raising taxes every single year, we just haven’t been transparent about it,” Poppe said. Poppe called this year’s legislative efforts open and transparent, which she said would prove beneficial to Minnesota over time.

Area legislators differed as to how increased funding to programs like education and the state’s upcoming health insurance exchange would benefit Minnesotans, however. Savick hailed increased education spending as a boon to the state’s students, who would be able to learn more during all-day kindergarten.

“There’s going to be a lot of investment in education,” she said.

Quam disagreed with the increased educational funding, as he would much rather legislators target specific school districts that were failing instead of passing blanket mandates.

“I’m sick and tired of not being able to say, ‘Here is where we have the problem,’” Quam said.

Senjem agreed, saying he was against the education bill removing some standardized testing to hold districts accountable.

Legislators also discussed new solar energy initiatives, with Savick joining Senjem in opposing some of the attention on solar energy.

“I just didn’t think there is enough technology for solar energy now,” she said.