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Minnesota vs. Wisconsin

Published (4/29/2010)
By Nick Busse
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Lawmakers sometimes hear complaints from business owners who say it’s harder to start a company in Minnesota than it is in Wisconsin. Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester) intends to find out for sure whether it’s true.

Norton sponsors HF2849, which would initiate a study comparing Minnesota’s small business climate to that of its neighbor to the east. Norton hopes the study will shed some objective light on how to improve Minnesota’s economic competitiveness.

No money would be appropriated for the study; instead, the bill would ask the Legislative Coordinating Commission to apply to the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management to fund and/or conduct it themselves.

“We want them to look at it from beginning to end,” Norton said. “Formation, financing, licensing, permits, reporting requirements and employment laws and state and local taxes.”

The House Taxes Committee approved the bill April 27 and sent it to the House floor.

The bill specifies that the study should include information on the comparative state regulatory effects on three different types of business startups: small services businesses, small retail businesses and small manufacturing businesses.

Some committee members were skeptical of the bill’s purpose. Rep. Paul Kohls (R-Victoria) asked whether it was “just trying to make people feel good.”

“We want to say we’re doing something when we’re really not doing anything,” he said.

Along similar lines, Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague) said she doubted whether the Legislature had “the political will” to do anything with the results of the study.

Norton defended the rationale behind the study, and said the business community supports the idea.

“I’m not here just for fun; I’m here because 3M and many other corporations said this would be really helpful,” she said.

A written report would be due to the LCC by Dec. 1, 2011; however, if the LCC cannot get funding from the Carlson School or another institution to conduct the study, the study may be canceled.

A companion, SF2310, sponsored by Sen. Kathy Saltzman (DFL-Woodbury), awaits action by the Senate. It is also included in SF2510, the omnibus economic development policy bill, sponsored by Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm). That bill was passed 45-21 by the Senate on April 26.

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