Democrats present jobs’ creation proposal

By T.W. Budig, Capitol Editor

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL lawmakers presented a jobs’ creation proposal Wednesday, Jan. 11 they say is “targeted” and can put thousands of Minnesotans back to work.

The centerpiece of the proposal is a $3,000 tax credit for each unemployed Minnesota military veteran or recent graduate hired by a state business this year, a credit proposed to extend into the first six months of 2013 at the reduce rate of $1,500.

To qualify for the credit, businesses need to hire state residents for full-time jobs paying at least $11.89 an hour. The credit is capped at $100,000 for each company.

Democrats talk of closing state tax loopholes for corporations with offshore assets as a means of funding their $35 million tax credit initiative.

Democrats look to the $775 million bonding bill Dayton will present next week as another vehicle of job creation.

They’re proposing to include in the bill a $20 million request by the Department of Employment and Economic Development for grant money to local government to use for business development projects.

Democrats also propose a $10 million shot in the arm to the Minnesota Investment Fund. And they seek passage of internet sales tax legislation that would begin to collect the state sales tax from online purchases from retailers located outside of Minnesota.

Currently, Minnesota companies, such as Best Buy, explained Sen. Kenneth Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis, compete on an uneven playing field.

Indeed, Best Buy stores serve almost as displays for internet electronic retailers, he said. Shoppers come and browse electronics at the stores but then leave to make their purchases online, Kelash said.

Democrats estimate enforcing the state sales tax online would snag $3.5 million in 2013.

According to an administration official, a dozen states have already passed similar legislation.

“There’s strength in numbers,” said Dayton of states banding together to correct the perceived sales tax omission.

Dayton and DFL legislative leaders also propose the expansion of worker training, proposing a pilot grant program to help Minnesotans pay for training for high-demand careers.

“Let’s move this early this session,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, of the Republican Legislature passing the jobs’ initiative.

Speedily passing the bonding bill will help ensure the upcoming construction season will not be missed, Bakk argued.

The Democrats’ jobs proposal drew applause from union officials.

“Creating more job opportunities and incentives is the best thing state government can do for struggling middle class families and the tens of thousands of Minnesotans desperately looking for work,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson in a statement.

“Gov, Dayton, Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen recognize that Minnesotans want job creation to be a top priority in the 2012 legislative session,” she said of Democratic leaders.

Minnesota Association of Professional Employees Executive Director Jim Monroe expressed similar sentiments.

“Today’s jobs bill offered by Governor Dayton and DFL legislative leaders is exactly the kind of leadership that the state needs to keep moving in a positive economic direction,” he said.

Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, in a statement looked at means of creating jobs other than tax credits and training programs.

“Job creators across our state have been telling us that we can help them by getting government out of their way, reducing regulatory and tax burdens, and letting them do what they do best: create jobs,” Michel said.

If Republicans can “the standard line” and dismiss the Democratic jobs’ proposal as another attempt at raising taxes, explained Dayton, they can make their argument to the 175,000 unemployed Minnesotans looking for work.