Column: Jobs are at risk if Minnesota doesnt act soon

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 15, 2008

By Marty Seifert, Guest Column

The news that Northwest Airlines is merging with Delta Airlines came as no real surprise. We knew it was going to happen. We just didn&8217;t know when.

It is unfortunate that when the announcement was finally made the thought of losing a major corporate partner and thousands of jobs was met with a rather dull thud around the state.

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Minnesota needs to wake up. Northwest Airlines is a symptom of a much larger problem. What happened to Northwest Airlines could happen to any number of businesses in any region of the state.

There are things that the Minnesota Legislature can and must do to make sure it doesn&8217;t happen again.

Job creation should be our top priority. We have heard a lot of rhetoric this session over the number of jobs we are creating through a few bills. While this is positive news for our state, it just scratches the surface of the much larger problem.

Minnesota is closing its borders to job creation and pushing businesses out of the state, taking Minnesota jobs with them.

The legislative agenda of the past two years has done nothing to retain and generate the jobs we need in Minnesota to drive the economy.

Our top priority should be jobs, and not just jobs created by government for short term bonding projects or state agencies. We must create an environment that allows businesses to succeed and creates jobs.

Minnesota has a lot to offer. We have a high quality of life with abundant natural resources, low crime, great schools and one of the best health care systems in the nation. While those make our state an attractive place to live, work and raise a family, they do little to combat the high taxes that drive jobs out of our state and prevent new ones from coming here.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, Minnesota ranks among the 10 worst states to grow jobs or start a business. We have the third highest corporate income tax, sixth highest individual income tax, 11th highest state/local tax burden and the 16th highest sales tax in the nation.

All of these taxes negatively impact job creation, development and retention. To make matters worse, the Democrats in charge of the Minnesota House as part of their budget balancing act have proposed to eliminate every incentive program the state provides to keep jobs in the state and recruit new ones to come here.

The last thing we need to do when our state is facing a near billion deficit and losing thousands of jobs is remove the very incentives that create jobs.

Minnesota is not an island. We cannot compete with states that have lower taxes nor can we continue to afford to lose jobs to those who offer more welcoming economies and environments.

The loss of Northwest Airlines is a terrible blow to the state&8217;s economy. It will also have a negative impact on the schools, local businesses and communities that the thousands of employees at Northwest Airlines call home.

We are one Minnesota. We cannot sit back and hope that our community doesn&8217;t see what is happening in Eagan, Apple Valley or Farmington. We must join together with the common focus on job creation.

The time to act is now.

Minnesota must proactively seek solutions that stimulate business development and job creation, not hinder our state&8217;s economic recovery with high taxes and loss of tax incentives for job creators.

Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, is the Minnesota House majority leader.