Sen. Gene Dornink: State must support small businesses recovering from the pandemic

Published 5:57 pm Friday, February 17, 2023

Friends and neighbors,

I continue to be amazed by the resilience of Minnesota’s small businesses that weathered the tough years of the pandemic. With many of our state’s businesses still in recovery mode, we should be doing all we can to help them flourish. Pending legislation, however, looks to make it more difficult to conduct business in Minnesota.

I, along with many Minnesotans, support the idea of employees having both sick time and paid family leave time. But the Democrats’ pending legislation in these areas is inflexible and filled with harmful mandates. That is not the correct approach.

Email newsletter signup

Most larger businesses currently offer programs like earned sick and safe time, and paid family and medical leave. The pre-existence of these employee benefits shows there is no need for a one-size-fits-all, forced government mandate. I have spoken with a number of our local small businesses that are extremely concerned about these burdensome mandates. Some shared with me that if either mandate were to become law, it would force them to close or move.

The Democrats’ sick and safe time bill mandates businesses to provide paid time off to their employees if they get sick or have a sick loved one they must care for. This legislation would require every Minnesota employer, with one or more employees, to offer their employees a minimum of one hour of “earned sick and safe time” for every 30 hours worked. While the state sits on $17 billion, this proposal includes zero financial help for small businesses. And, if they do not comply, they would face a fine of $10,000 per employee.

Similarly, their paid family and medical leave establishment and appropriation bill would create a massive new state program and administration. It would also impose a large, additional employer and employee tax and cost Minnesotans nearly $2 billion.

According to the 2023 State Tax Climate Index, Minnesota serves as the sixth worst business tax climate in the nation. It’s clear that our state already is severely unfriendly to business, and these new mandates would only make this worse. With Minnesota’s bordering states ranking as much friendlier environments to conduct business, why wouldn’t our businesses look elsewhere?

As both proposals have moved through committee, Senate Republicans have worked to amend the legislation to keep our small businesses top of mind. We offered an amendment to exempt small businesses — as other states have done. This amendment was voted down.

We also offered an alternative paid family and medical leave proposal that would take a free-market approach and provide a program through private insurance. Our proposal acknowledged that our mom-and-pop shops, farmers, and shops with part-time or seasonal workers differ from larger corporations. And therefore, our business should be able to tailor their benefits based on their employees’ unique needs. This amendment was also voted down.

The Senate majority continues to ignore the many problems their benefit mandates would create for our small businesses. It’s become evident that they do not wish to support business in Minnesota.