The 2016 legislative season to deal with a number of business-related items
The State Legislature’s 2016 session begins Tuesday, March 8. Short of an all-out brawl on the chamber floor, it’s fair to assume that whatever happens in St. Paul will take a back seat to the national campaign fireworks presently consuming the media cycle.
But there’s plenty of actual governing work to be done closer to home, and more than the usual share of controversy to be hashed out. Here’s a look at some of the biggest business-related agenda items for the coming legislative session:
Business Property Tax Relief
Minnesota businesses pay some of the highest business property taxes in the nation, thanks to an inflationary state property tax that many feel is redundant to locally assessed taxes.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Minnesota Business Partnership both want something done about it. The Chamber advocates “meaningfully reducing” the business property tax rate and removing the automatic inflator; the Business Partnership recommends using a portion of the state’s $900 million budget surplus to provide immediate tax relief.
Minnesota’s harsh winters and sprawling rural highway network stymie efforts to keep the state’s roads and bridges in good (or even passable) shape. The Twin Cities’ public transit network is good, but changing settlement and car ownership patterns necessitate long-term planning (and funding).
After a gridlocked 2015-16 session that saw no progress on transportation funding, some lawmakers are advocating for a revenue-neutral voter referendum on the issue. Prospects for a popular vote are unclear, but the Minnesota Business Partnership isn’t waiting: In addition to its business property tax relief proposal, it advocates allocating a portion of Minnesota’s budget surplus to transportation projects.
Rural Broadband Infrastructure
Parts of rural Minnesota still lack adequate broadband infrastructure, putting Greater Minnesota residents at a huge (and growing) disadvantage. The Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) advocates increased funding for the organization’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program, which currently receives just a fraction of the $200 million outlay recommended by the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband.
R&D Tax Credit
Minnesota’s well-deserved reputation for technology innovation is threatened by interstate competition and rapid economic shifts. MHTA and like-minded technology groups are on the record supporting the House version of a bill that boosts the size and flexibility of Minnesota’s R&D Tax Credit. The bill’s Senate version is less friendly, so pro-R&D groups are gearing up for a lengthy fight to goad upper chamber lawmakers on board.
Angel Investment Tax Credit
The Angel Investment Tax Credit encourages investment in promising early-stage companies, many of which originate at the U of M. The credit, capped at $18 million statewide last year, is wildly popular, but it’s once again threatened by the legislative sausage making process. MHTA supports the House version of the Angel Investment Tax Credit bill, which preserves the $18 million cap and extends the credit through 2018, over the more restrictive Senate version.