State chamber advocates balance
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce hopes the DFL-controlled Legislature will commit to keeping businesses competitive while tackling the state's budget deficit this session.
Chamber officials said that should mean looking at spending first before raising taxes to erase $1.1 billion in red ink. Job 1, then, must be to adopt policies that create more private-sector jobs that in turn generate income taxes.
"Let's think about ultimately what is best for Minnesota," Dave Murphy said.
He is president of Red Wing Shoe Co. and also serves on the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Board.
Speaking from personal perspective during a stop at the newspaper office last week, Murphy said he hopes Republicans, who lost control of both the House and Senate in the November election, will work cordially and conscientiously with the DFL party, which also holds the governor's office.
The DFL could adopt just about anything it chooses, but leaders have assured the state chamber that they prefer consensus.
"If it gets into a cat fight, then they could pass what they want to pass," Murphy noted. "If Republicans, the minority, will let them, instead it can lead to moderate and thoughtful, meaningful change."
The state chamber's legislative priorities are to:
strengthen education and workforce development;
reform state spending by determining how much is needed to address state programs that then produce measurable outcomes;
implement a Minnesota-made health insurance exchange rather than go strictly with the ObamaCare formula;
keep energy costs affordable;
state election reform by moving the state primary election to June and
continue streamlining cumbersome environmental regulations.
Taxing/spending and regulations are among Murphy's primary concerns. He said that both tax hikes and spending cuts will be in the mix -- something Republicans and Democrats need to acknowledge.
He and Jim Pumarlo, the state chamber director of communications who accompanied Murphy on the visit, urged a balanced approach the budget.
"First look at the tax structure. Be revenue neutral -- don't fixate on the number," said Pumarlo, of Red Wing.
The Shoe president shared his business philosophy to solving revenue-versus-expenses equations.
"We always ask, 'Are we delivering more for the same or the same for less?' I like that discipline," he said.
Regarding regulations, Murphy hopes lawmakers look beyond the state's environmental permitting process -- which he and Pumarlo said has gotten better under Gov. Mark Dayton -- and consider the broader picture.
Regulations actually can benefit Minnesota businesses, he said. Lawmakers can make rules to promote Minnesota-made products, for example.
"Wouldn't it be great when we build the Vikings stadium and when we build the St. Paul Saints stadium that the guys are wearing Red Wing Shoes?" Murphy said.