Guest column: Minnesota’s economic policy: The pathway to continuing growth

BY MYRON FRANS – GUEST COLUMNIST

Minnesota benefits when we invest in great schools, healthy residents, a productive workforce, clean lakes, quality roads and a sound infrastructure — all things that contribute to vibrant, healthy communities and successful businesses.

Some argue that cutting budgets and services to reduce taxes is the only path to competitiveness. Gov. Mark Dayton and I respectfully disagree.

This year, we worked with the DFL majority in the Legislature to pass a fair and balanced budget. We overcame a projected $6.2 billion budget deficit in 2010. We repaid our schools most of the $2.7 billion that we borrowed in 2011. And we reversed previous cuts to education, froze tuition and established all-day kindergarten.

The results have been good for Minnesota: We have the fifth-fastest growing economy in the U.S. Our per capita income of $46,227 is ranked higher than 39 other states. Our workforce is among the most educated in the nation. And Minnesota added more than 122,200 jobs since Gov. Dayton took office.

Over the same period, Wisconsin’s “Open for Business” strategy has resulted in only 62,000 jobs and its economic growth ranked 32nd last year. That strategy may work for Wisconsin, but we believe our approach works best for Minnesota.

There is more to sound economic policy than just lower taxes. Minnesota’s strategy of reasonable tax levels, a balanced state budget and wise investments strengthens our middle class and puts us on a path to success. In fact, every major investment reflects this administration’s commitment to successful individuals and businesses. These include:

• Another $735 million for education to help ensure skilled and educated workers and leaders.

• Targeted economic incentives to create thousands of Minnesota jobs at new or expanded corporate facilities in Rochester (Mayo Destination Medical Center), Maple Grove (3M lab expansion), Bloomington (Mall of America expansion), Brooklyn Park (Baxter Pharmaceutical), and Shakopee (Emerson Electric Co., Shutterfly).

• Putting $90 million into economic development programs like the Minnesota Investment Fund that create jobs by leveraging private and community investments to attract new businesses and support business expansion.

• Renewing our state’s funding partnership with towns, cities and counties to put the brakes on a decade of significant property tax increases and ensure quality local infrastructure, public safety, and other services – everywhere in Minnesota. These local services are critical to a high quality of life that attracts and retains good workers.

• Lowering unemployment insurance taxes for all businesses by $347 million and expanding property tax refunds to give direct relief to homeowners and renters.

Most of the new revenue to balance the budget and fund these investments came from tax changes that make our system fairer. We asked those with taxable earnings above $250,000 (for married couples) to pay about the same percent of their income in state and local taxes as other Minnesotans. And we leveled the playing field for corporations in Minnesota by closing tax preferences that favored a few large businesses with operations in other states or nations.

Several weeks ago, we closed the books on fiscal year 2013 with a surplus of $636 million that was used to repay more of the money borrowed from our schools. We now owe just $238 million, down from $2.7 billion in 2011.

Our economic policy for Minnesota includes working closely with neighboring states. No state, no nation, is an island in today’s highly competitive and global economy. This is not a zero-sum game: When one of our neighboring states does well, the others will also benefit. We are proud of Minnesota’s economic growth and wish the same to Wisconsin.

Myron Frans is the Minnesota commissioner of revenue.

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