Rep. Patricia Mueller: Employers need help – it’s time to act

Published 6:21 pm Friday, March 25, 2022

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Business — big and small — are the lifeblood of our communities. Over the last two years, many of these businesses were forced to shut down while others were allowed to stay open because they were deemed essential, often with very little distinction. After being shut down for weeks or months on end, businesses are now being forced to operate on extremely slim margins while trying to ride out a volatile economy. Now, employers are just trying to make ends meet while hoping for consistency and stability despite rising inflation.

I’ve been stopping by local businesses asking them about how they’re doing since the end of the pandemic restrictions imposed by the governor. During our conversations, businesses owners shared many of their struggles with me. First, many businesses are still struggling to find people to work. Second, businesses shared that their parts are hard to come by and supply chain issues are ongoing. Gas and oil prices have drastically increased, which affects every part of the supply chain. When it costs more money to transport products, everything costs more. Finally, businesses told me that they are seeing customers changing their spending habits because of rising inflation and gas prices. At a time when businesses should be thriving because of the repeal of restrictions, there are still a number of concerns and fears.

With this being a non-budget year at the legislature, we are supposed to be focusing on needed policy changes and emergency funding. Supporting our local businesses falls into both of those categories. Unfortunately, the vast majority of bills we’re seeing come forward in the House have nothing to do with that and will instead only make it more difficult for our employers to provide the jobs that are the lifeblood of our local economies. One thing we should have already done, and hopefully will do as soon as possible, is to refill the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.

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After months of warnings about the deadline to refill the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund so we can avoid triggering a huge spike in taxes on Minnesota’s employers, the majority party stood in the way of the solution. When House Republicans brought multiple motions to bring up the bill that would prevent huge tax increases on our businesses, the majority party voted “no.” I’ve heard so many bills about how to spend our surplus, but this is an investment that should be one of our top priorities. Businesses will be punished with a tax increase through no fault of their own — the governor chose who could stay open and that forced businesses to make impossible decisions. Refilling the UI Trust Fund is supported by Senate Republicans and Democrats, House Republicans, and the governor.

I have been working hard to advance policies in the House that will help our employers and their employees, and I plan to continue working on this and other important issues right up until the House adjourns session for the biennium.