While Minnesota enjoys a budget surplus, Main Street businesses weigh in on how to put the added revenue to use, favoring local infrastructure investments over tax cuts.
During Small Business Week and throughout the year, small business owners can speak for themselves on the issues facing Minnesota. When big business groups and corporate lobbyists push a tax-cutting and service-gutting agenda, they're not speaking for the small businesses on Main Street.
Here in Minnesota, we know the results of that agenda all too well. We've had to dig ourselves out from years of budget deficits that began with a tax rebate similar to what's being proposed i the legislature now.
Just as small businesses have to invest their surpluses wisely, so should the state invest its surplus in things that will benefit as many people as possible instead of just a fortunate few.
Our businesses thrive when our communities thrive, and we could do much more to benefit the hard-working people of Minnesota if we appropriately allocated the budget surplus by bolstering our public education and infrastructure, and increasing support to those struggling to make ends meet.
We’ve worked hard to grow our businesses and create jobs for our community members. As a result, less than ten years after one of the worst economic downturns on record Minnesota enjoys a budget surplus. And CNBC rates Minnesota as the best place for business in the country. The small businesses that line our city’s streets and employ over half of the state’s workers built this budget surplus and deserve a say in how the revenue is put to use.
We have already learned how tax cuts for big business, and the wealthy few will halt our progress and undo the economic strides Minnesotans have made these last few years. In honor of Small Business Week and the contributions that local, independent businesses make to our communities year round, we urge lawmakers to listen to the voices of Main Street.
"The small benefit I would get from a cut to my statewide property tax is not enough to impact my business model. By combining my resources with others in the form of business property taxes, our state can ensure a more stable and resilient work force. As a business owner and a citizen, it's important to me that the state uses our collective dollars to invest in an infrastructure that supports workers at my restaurant and in my community." Holly Hatch- Surisook, Owner, Sen Yai Sen Lek, Minneapolis, MN.
“As a small business owner, a mother, and a concerned citizen, I believe any budget surplus should be reinvested in our infrastructure, transportation, clean energy and education. Having a highly educated workforce should be a top priority in our state. Minnesota can be made an even greater state to live in by educating our population without saddling our young adults with crippling student loan debt as they exit college.
Additionally, tax cuts should be created to assist small businesses rather than expecting any benefit from the elusive "trickle-down" effect from corporate tax breaks. Helping small businesses will stimulate local economy and make our communities more vibrant." Terri Emmerich, owner, Spice of Life Tea Shoppe, St Cloud, MN
“These proposed corporate and other tax cuts will not benefit me or my business at all. As a matter of fact these tax cuts will likely result in my personal property taxes going up because of the shortfalls in infrastructure and education investment revenues. We’ve already seen what tax cuts like these cause…budget deficit after budget deficit, and rising property taxes. We did that for ten years. Why would we go back to doing that?” Todd Mikkelson, owner, Sprayrack by the RM Group, Orono, MN
The country observed National Small Business Week in May (see the Presidential Proclamation). The Main Street Alliance marked the occasion by releasing its “State of the Small Business Nation – 2011.” This white paper includes a “Small Business Top Ten List” of concrete policy opportunities to level the playing field for small businesses and help them create jobs.
While pundits and politicians like to label policies “pro-business” or “anti-business,” as if there were one unified business interest, the reality is that policies that make winners out of some businesses make losers out of others. As Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, put it, “You’re never going to have one hundred percent unanimity. Never. There is inherent tension… I laugh every day when someone calls and asks what does the business community think.” (1)
While Mr. Josten pointed to tensions between oil and gas companies, wholesalers and retailers, investment banks and retail banks – all big corporate players – his point applies even more so to the dynamics between big business and small business. While pundits and politicians like to lump all business interests together, the truth is that policies that benefit large corporate players very often tilt the playing field against small businesses.
In a cover letter to President Obama, senior administration officials, and congressional leaders on May 18, Main Street Alliance business leaders wrote:
Our members come from states across the country and a wide range of sectors, but we are united by a common set of values – small business values. We believe in what we do, we stand by our products and services, and we want people in government and corporate leadership who do the same. We stand for fair play and a level playing field. We stand for having each other’s backs. We believe America’s future prosperity depends on everyone contributing their fair share.
These small business values are what guide our business decisions and our commitment to advancing policies that fulfill the promise of an economy that works for all of us – small businesses, our employees, and the communities that sustain us.
(1) James Verini, “Show Him the Money,” Washington Monthly, July/August 2010, http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2010/1007.verini.html