ST. PAUL – A bipartisan bill Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano, has authored to provide Minnesota’s small-business employees with fitness incentives customarily offered in larger workplaces has cleared its first committee hurdle.
McDonald’s bill (H.F. 229) allows employees to subtract fitness facility membership fees from their annual tax liabilities. The Health and Human Services Reform Committee heard the bill Wednesday and approved it on a voice vote without opposition, sending the proposal to its next committee stop – the Taxes Committee.
“Employee wellness programs have proven positive returns for both employers and employees,” McDonald said. “Production increases while workers use fewer sick days, file fewer workman’s compensation cases and health care costs fall. Reports show participants in workplace wellness programs say they work harder and perform better. This translates to healthier families and businesses and a stronger state economy.”
Many of Minnesota’s larger employers offer fitness facilities right at their worksites, a fringe benefit not available at most small businesses. This impacts a large number of citizens. McDonald indicated reports show approximately 50 percent of Minnesota’s private sector workforce is employed by small businesses and that 98 percent of all Minnesota employers have fewer than 100 employees.
“Rising levels of chronic diseases, including obesity, have negative impacts throughout our society,” McDonald said. “The cost of health care impacts every aspect of our economic well-being. The cost of insurance and the cost of medical care keep rising and account for an even larger portion of a business’s budget and our family budgets. More work remains in getting us on the right track, but this bill gives Minnesotans an incentive to take steps toward a healthier workplace and healthier life.”