Small Business Minnesota 2014 and ongoing legislative priorities

Minimum wage increase
Many of our members have expressed support for an increase in the minimum wage. None have voiced otherwise.

Minnesota is one of only four states that allowed its minimum wage to slip below the federal level. The legislature has ignored minimum wage for so long it has created a compounded concern for many small business owners.

  • Our members have expressed the need for government to set a minimum wage for those employees who have little or no bargaining power. The many small business owners who pay above the current minimum wage are put at a disadvantage to businesses paying the current subpar minimum wage.
  • Just like a business, the legislature needs to develop long-term planning. Business need some level of certainty and predictability in order to plan. Automatic biennial or annual review of minimum wage that  uses fact-based, relative formulas is needed. This will help businesses plan for moderate increases on their lowest wages. When the formula and the legislature dictate, some years there may be no increase, other years there may be an increase but more than likely increases would never be above single-digits.

Even though we believe in government’s limited role in setting a minimum wage, we do not believe it’s government’s role to guarantee select employees in select industries make above minimum wage. This is something to be left between the employee and employer. Thus, when employees’ wages come from a variety of sources within one place of work, all sources must be factored into ensuring the employee is making at least minimum wage, for example, earnings from tips that are enabled by working in a job in which tips are expected, taxable and documented in the normal course of business 

Affordable health insurance/health care
Affordable health insurance remains small business owners’ top concern, as indicated in both Small Business Minnesota surveys and national surveys. Small Business Minnesota outlined the many reasons health insurance is an issue last session, from the ability to attract and retain top talent to the many disadvantages in affordability compare to large business.

While we can all agree that the MNsure rollout was less than ideal, the poor performance of MNsure (an enrollment system) does not invalidate the need for healthcare reform and affordable health insurance for small businesses. We need the healthcare principals and tools of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); we need to move forward with continual improvements of MNsure.

It is incumbent upon legislators to ensure the information given to their constituents and the public is accurate.  For example, distinguishing between the ACA which is a public policy and MNsure which is the enrollment system required under the ACA.

Small Business Minnesota has held separate meetings with the MNsure board chair, the new MNsure CEO and small-business oversight committee members to express our concerns and make recommendations. Many of our recommendations have been enacted.

Representation of small business on the MNsure board and on the small business advisory committee remains a concern. Chambers’ staffers are not business owners and are too far removed to properly represent small business. We need a savvy business owner who understands the experience of most small business owners. We ask that the legislature act on this. Small Business Minnesota would like to offer or review screening questions for this position.

Transit and transportation to get employees to work and goods to market
Last session, the legislature failed to increase funding for transit and infrastructure, leaving about 40 percent of the state’s critical transit maintenance needs unfunded. Meanwhile bridges are unsafe, roads are at capacity and our transit system is behind the rest of the nation causing us to lose businesses and employees to other states. We support proper and adequate funding so that employees can get to work and goods can go to market in a safe, efficient and effective manner.

Education for a ready workforce
As noted last session, we support investments in education today for a ready workforce tomorrow. While the 2013 legislature made significant strides in addressing 10 years of cuts to education, we still have one of the nation’s worst achievement gaps (and the nation’s worst employment gap). We realize these gaps have been compounded by an increase in poverty, lack of affordable healthcare, a shortage in permanent housing, decreasing parental involvement and unsafe learning environments. The legislature must continue to take a comprehensive, long-term, career-focused approach to addressing the needs of tomorrow’s workforce. We support:

  • Early childhood/family education
  • Safe school initiatives that create a learning environment free from bullying and weapons
  • Decreasing skyrocketing college costs and restoring funding so all people who have the ability and the interest can attend post-secondary schools.
  • Matching education to career outcomes
  • Broadening STEM education to include rather than “weed out” students
  • Relevant hands-on training on current equipment in our technical schools
  • Increase efforts to assist small businesses with internships and educational partnerships

Remaining business-to-business services tax affecting small businesses
We are confident that the legislature will remove the B2B taxes enacted last year. Dozens of bills addressing this concern have been authored and the governor has signaled his intent to repeal B2B taxes when one of those bills reaches his desk.

Minnesota’s $25 billion in tax expendituresAction needs to be taken to get Minnesota’s tax expenditures on the docket for regular review and sunset. State economists and auditors have drawn attention to this concern. It has been reported that our state’s tax expenditures are on “automatic pilot” and are out of control. When it comes to business, tax expenditures go almost exclusively to big businesses, increasing their profitability unfairly and disproportionately.

Tax code
Minnesota has one of the lowest effective corporate tax rates in the country but one of the highest statutory tax rates. This is indicative of a system that is complex, unbalanced and unfair. Small businesses do not receive the special loopholes that lower tax rates. Tax loopholes and expenditures must be addressed to lower the tax rate for all, not just a few.

Corporate tax loopholes
Minnesota has an estimated $2 billion in onshore corporate tax loopholes. We acknowledge the work done to close some offshore loopholes. Before providing additional corporate tax relief, more work should be done to close all loopholes.

Net Neutrality, Internet fairness and affordability
We support efforts to increase Internet access, affordability and equity. Small businesses depend on affordable, modern and equitable Internet access. Yet, in the United States Internet access is comparatively expensive, slow and unfairly distributed.

Almost all businesses rely on the Internet to interact with current and potential customers, and to conduct business with suppliers. Yet in greater Minnesota more than 500,000 families and businesses have no Internet access and other areas suffer from slow speeds. The average income of a small business owner is $40,000; Internet affordability is vital.

We support increased competition and improved Internet regulation. To ensure a more level playing field for small businesses, they must not face a slower Internet or other Internet barriers in their business based on their size or the rates they can afford.

Impartial justice
We support impartiality in the justice system. Incidents of judges presiding over cases of their big-business campaign contributors must stop. This gives big business an unfair advantage over small businesses.

Citizens United
We support overturning Citizens United which gives big business yet another unfair advantage in public policy influence through unlimited campaign contributions. Small business owners are not organized to fund elections for their benefit nor do they have the funds to do so.

LLC for public good
We support current efforts to create the ability for organizations to form as a “public good LLC.”

Sustainable business practices
We support sustainable business practices so businesses can thrive into the future, and so employees, customers and their families remain healthy. 

Misrepresentation on business filing with the Secretary of State
Under current law, when filing or renewing a business filing with the Minnesota Secretary of State, small business owners are required to list a “president,” which is defined as the person taking care of the day-to-day activities of the business and who will serve as contact for the Secretary of State’s office.  This role may actually be held by an administrative assistant or others in the business. This has caused confusion as employees are listed as the organization’s “president,” even though they do not hold this position. Further, many businesses do not have a “president.” We propose changing that section to “contact.”

 

 

Contact: Audrey Britton, Small Business Minnesota public and government affairs director
audrey@smallbusinessmn.org or (763) 280-3316

About Small Business Minnesota
Small Business Minnesota is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization of business owners in Minnesota with less than 100 employees. We offer public advocacy, educational forums, networking opportunities and the latest small business news and resources. www.smallbusinesmn.org

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *