Taxes, bonding, stadium bills go to wire

Published 2:45 pm Saturday, May 12, 2012

By Richard Murray, Capitol Conversations

With the end of the 2012 legislative session in sight, lawmakers tackled what has become known as “The Big Three.” In other words, we sent a bonding bill, a Vikings stadium bill and the Tax Relief and Job Creation Act to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature.

Rich Murray

This year’s bonding bill spends $496 million on statewide construction needs. Highlights from the proposal include $46 million for road and bridge funding across Minnesota, $15 million for wastewater treatment facilities, $44 million to help restore the State Capitol building, $33 million for Rural Finance Authority Grants and $6 million for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant program.

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Personally, I was disappointed the Shell Rock River Watershed District did not make the cut, but I was pleased to see funding to design, construct, furnish and equip the expansion of the Hormel Institute in Austin. This will bring many needed jobs to southern Minnesota.

As for the Vikings stadium debate, I sat down and talked with hundreds of people in person and on the phone and read thousands of emails from folks who wanted to share their thoughts on the issue.

I analyzed this proposal as much as I could and did my due diligence. With an investment like this, you just can’t give it the green light because it’s the best deal for the Minnesota Vikings. To me, it was important to ensure that this stadium bill would not jeopardize our state’s financial standing and that it would not hurt the taxpayers.

The plan that was ultimately approved requires three sources to pay for construction. Under the proposal, the Vikings would be responsible for $477 million, Minneapolis would add $150 million and Minnesota would contribute $348 million through expected revenue generated through the creation of electronic pull-tabs.

Many members were concerned about the accuracy of the pull-tab revenue. I spoke with the financial experts so I could be confident that the numbers were reliable and I could support the bill.

I’m fairly confident we have a good plan in place here. A stadium is never a good investment, but the Vikings are important to the fabric of Minnesota, and this vote allowed lawmakers to do what they could to keep the team here so many future generations can enjoy the franchise, while at the same time ensuring we were looking out for the best interest of all Minnesotans.

Finally, the Legislature approved the “Round 2” version of the Tax Relief and Job Creation Act. The first edition was vetoed by Gov. Dayton earlier this month.

Much like the first version, the proposal contains a number of provisions that will benefit residents and businesses throughout rural Minnesota. The most important thing here is this plan creates an atmosphere where businesses can create jobs!

Among the highlights: The legislation provides a property tax freeze for Main Street businesses, increased property-tax relief for homeowners and creates a veterans jobs tax credit that will help encourage businesses to hire those who have fought for our country. A provision allowing Minnesota cities with populations less than 5,000 to receive either their paid 2012 local government aid or certified 2013 LGA, whichever amount is greater is also included.

The bill encourages economic development by increasing Minnesota’s investment for the Research and Development Credit, as well as the Angel Investor Tax Credit, which provides incentives to individuals investing capital into startup and emerging companies focused on high technology or new proprietary technology.

Also included is the provision that allows small businesses to take up-front capital equipment exemptions rather than wait months for a refund, as well as the Greater Minnesota Internship Grant program.

What about direct job creation? The Mall of America expansion project is expected to employ 7,000 people in the construction trades and another 7,000 in permanent jobs after completion — and that’s just one provision in the bill.

The goal of the legislation is to put more people to work and continue to strengthen our economy. Arguably, this is the most important bill that’s been approved by the Legislature this year, and like the bonding and Vikings stadium proposals, I’m hopeful Gov. Dayton will sign it.

Have a question or concern? Constituents in District 27A including communities in Freeborn and Mower counties can write to me at 439 State Office Building, 100 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155. Or call me at 651-296-8216 or email me at

Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, is the state representative for House District 27A.