At our June membership meeting, SCCA collaborated with Longfellow Business Association (LBA) and West of the Rail Business Association (WRBA) to invite State Senator Patricia Torres Ray, State Representative Jim Davnie and Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin to talk to us about activity at the state and county level that affects small businesses.
Both Torres Ray and Davnie reflected on a difficult legislative session. Senator Torres Ray joined the Jobs and Economic Growth committee this year, with the intent of promoting small businesses, specifically focusing on immigrant owned businesses. She talked specifically about a bill that was proposed and ultimately vetoed in the last session that would have provided a tax incentive for businesses purchasing more than $3 million in equipment, and . She believes that bill favored large businesses at the expense of small, locally owned ones, which she called the ‘true job creators.’ Torres Ray is planning a summit that will bring together small businesses later in the year. SCCA will post more information when it becomes available.
Representative Davnie highlighted a bill that would close a tax loophole that has so far allowed internet-based businesses to avoid paying sales tax for purchases made in Minnesota. This issue has been successfully addressed in other states, and if Minnesota can change the law, it would level the playing field between online and physical stores. This bill was brought to committee in January, but no further action has been taken. Davnie noted that many legislators were working on other tax issues, such as trying to eliminate or reduce the renters credit, and did not prioritize this bill, which would have had a significant impact on retail businesses.
Commissioner McLaughlin noted his work on making county operations more efficient, including fighting to keep the Environmental Response Fund program, which uses a small deed tax to fund environmental clean up that is required for new development. Brian Miller of Redesign, Inc., which is a non-profit community developer in the neighborhood, commented that this is one of the most well run and necessary development funding programs in the state.
Legislators opened up the floor to questions, and several neighborhood business owners responded, including our own SCCA Chair, Joe Buck of Buck Brothers Construction. Joe asked legislators what business owners could do to help our representatives get important bills passed. Torres Ray responded that they really need the voice of small and local businesses at the capitol. The SCCA plans to explore what we might do to help business owners stay aware of legislation that would affect them, and how we can better serve as a vehicle for our members’ concerns to be heard by the state and county government. If you have comments or ideas, please feel free to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.