BAXTER -- The mixed bag that was the 2000 Minnesota Legislature is now history but Minnesota Chamber of Commerce officials are already asking their members what the organization's priorities should be in the next session.
David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber, talked to Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce members at an early morning session Tuesday at In-Fisherman.
The Legislature's accomplishments, from the business organization's point of view, were an across-the-board personal income tax cut, a significant reduction in the MCHA assessment, $500 million in new, one-time transportation funding and workers' compensation legislation.
The greatest disappointments, Olson said, were the lack of any business property tax relief or progress toward property tax reform and the Senate leadership's refusal to allow floor debate on any tort reform legislation.
For the past several years, business leaders have sought to eliminate or reform the state's joint and several liability law. In Minnesota civil law, if a business is found to be 15 percent at fault and two other businesses are found to be 50 and 35 percent at fault, the first business could be liable for 100 percent if the other two can't pay.
"We think that is unfair," Olson said.
Joint and several liability reform legislation had passed key committees, Olson said, but Senate leadership refused to schedule it for floor debate.
Olson said he thought a majority of legislators would have supported it and he had encouraged them to voice their frustrations at the legislation's failure to reach the floor with Senate leadership.
The Minnesota Chamber will renew its efforts for joint and several liability reform and reference protection legislation.
Lisa Paxton, executive director of the Brainerd chambers, said the current tax situation provides no incentives for businesses to provide affordable housing.
"Housing continues to be a major problem here," she said.
She did point out the Willows housing project in Brainerd as a success story of public-private partnership.
Olson said that because of the high property taxes on apartments, "it doesn't make any sense to build them."
Mike Engler of the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center, concurred, noting the Brainerd area has a service-oriented economy and "we're running out of housing.
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