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Lawmakers zero in on ways to help businesses

Efforts to boost business are take center stage this year at the state Capitol.

As the state grapples with record unemployment and lagging revenue, lawmakers are focused on trying to create jobs. And while Republicans and Democrats differ on a lot of the issues, one area is getting bipartisan support — business tax credits.

House Majority Leader Rep. Tony Sertich told Rochester business leaders last month that tax credits have the backing of legislative leaders and the governor.

"We couldn't agree on much, but one thing we agreed on is tax credits for business expansion is a necessity," said Sertich, DFL-Chisholm.

Before the start of the 2010 legislative session, House Tax Committee Chairwoman Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, unveiled a massive jobs bill aimed at boosting investment in the private sector. Ideas include an angel investment tax credit for investment in high-tech, manufacturing or green business jobs with fewer than 100 employees and $2 million in gross receipts. Another historic rehabilitation credit aims to encourage rehabilitation of historic buildings.


In addition, her bill would give communities across the state more flexibility to use a business tax incentive known as tax-increment financing.

Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce lobbyist John Eckerman said his organization supports the idea of tax credits for business.

"We need to have some way to incentivize business to expand or come there," he said. "That is a big piece of what we're looking for."

Besides boosting credits, lawmakers are also zeroing in on business regulation. Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said that his caucus will be pushing hard for regulatory reform.

"We continue to hear about the inordinate amount of time it takes businesses to get permits," he said.

Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, agreed that regulation reform and mandate relief will be on the table this year. She said lawmakers also plan to look at making more loan money available for small businesses.

"We will do some things to help this year," Norton said.

The public borrowing bill, known as the bonding bill, is another tool aimed at stimulating business in the state. Eckerman said that getting local projects included in the bonding bill is a priority this year. Topping the chamber's wish list is a $34 million request to expand the Mayo Civic Center. The chamber is also backing an $8 million request for studies of a proposed freight railroad bypass south of Rochester.


Locally, Senjem said he will once again push a bill to force the Minnesota Department of Transportation to issue permits for the 65th Street interchange. A study of the proposed interchange is currently underway. But Senjem said the project has been delayed far too long and that if it were to move ahead, it would generate 1,000 construction jobs.

Eckerman said that building the interchange would also allow for business construction to move ahead in the area.

"We're happy with the progress that has been made (on 65th Street)," Eckerman said, "but there are still several projects out there on hold and some have pulled up the stakes because they can't wait."

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