■ Minnesota Chamber ■
details its priorities
Brainerd Lakes Chamber members on Friday heard a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce official outline his organization’s priorities for the Legislature at the Brainerd Lakes Chamber’s Eggs and Issues event.
Bill Blazar, senior vice president for the Minnesota Chamber, detailed various positions at the morning session at Arrowwood Lodge and later in an interview with the Dispatch, which also included Brainerd Lakes Chamber CEO Lisa Paxton and Anderson Brothers Construction President and CEO Terry McFarlin.
McFarlin was supportive of the Minnesota Chamber’s efforts to streamline the state’s permitting process. He said that while improvements have been made the process to acquire stormwater permits for expansion of manufacturing firms or businesses is still slow.
“It can be painful for that owner,” he said.
Paxton and McFarlin credited the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for conducting a focus group which they recently attended.
“They listened,” Paxton said. “They owned that they can improve.”
Blazar said he didn’t see any reason why his organization couldn’t work with Democrats on issues such as workforce training, health care exchanges and environmental policy.
Energy issues such as limiting the range of discretion for energy rate regulators might be more problematic because it’s a newer issue and it’s more complicated.
When regulators shift the cost of energy from residential users to businesses without a justifiable reason related to the actual cost of providing the service to the customer it results in problems for businesses.
“It creates all kinds of uncertainties,” Blazar said.
Blazar said it was almost certain the Minnesota Chamber would oppose Gov. Mark Dayton’s expected effort to increase the tax rate or create an additional tax bracket for upper income citizens. He said he preferred to see the state live within its means.
He and Paxton did approve of an Internet sales and use tax which is currently on the books but is rarely enforced of complied with.
Blazar said when Minnesotans buy a taxable item on the Internet they should be paying a tax to the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
“Let’s enforce the law,” he said calling for legislation that would make vendors remit the tax to the state.
Paxton said the issue is often referred to as “e-fairness.” Collecting this tax will help level the playing field for area businesses, she said. Paxton said in most states that have such a tax a threshold is set so it does not effect a private party who is selling a lower value item through the Internet.
Blazar said the estimates of how much revenue might be generated through an internet sales tax vary widely. He’s heard estimates of $3 to 4 million, $18 million and $40 million a year.