We all have a role to play — or multiple roles — in emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic as employers, employees, parents, and members of the community. And we count on others to play their roles, too. We respect and support each other’s space and health and take every step possible to move toward recovery, including economic recovery.
Our elected officials have the power that few individuals have: Legislation they pass impacts the lives of every Minnesotan in every role they play. Their inaction has the opposite effect: It stalls our state’s recovery.
Minnesota legislators have had multiple opportunities to pass a bonding bill and a tax bill over the last year, including last month’s special session. These bills would include much-needed public- and private-sector investment and reforms that should not wait until 2021.
One particularly impactful tax provision is referred to as Section 179. A couple of years ago, Minnesota adopted several business tax increases when conforming to federal legislation. But the state didn’t adopt many of the offsets, including Section 179, which allows for immediate expensing for purchases. The 2019 tax bill, updated to the federal law, treated the trade-in of equipment as an income gain. But the state didn’t offset this with immediate expensing of equipment purchases.
As a result, small businesses and farmers were hit hard with retroactive tax increases — an increased expense that is especially hard to shoulder right now. Businesses are dealing with a severe revenue loss from circumstances beyond their control. This fix would help small businesses and farmers reinvest, rebuild, and increase productivity of their Minnesota operations.
Likewise, a bonding bill would provide funding for the state and our local jurisdictions to inject significant resources into infrastructure and economic-development projects across Minnesota. Our current economic challenges have put the pipeline for future construction projects in question, making this bonding bill a crucial economic lifeline for thousands of construction workers and their employer contractors.
For these skilled construction professionals, state-funded capital-investment projects could be the only sources of work across this state next year and the only means of keeping them employed, financially secure, and not reliant on state unemployment insurance benefits.
Our state and nation will continue to face unprecedented social and economic challenges for the foreseeable future. It’s up to all of us to take responsibility for the roles we play in helping our economy and society as a whole overcome these challenges. Legislators cannot allow partisan deadlock to stand in the way of moving Minnesota’s economy forward.
We call on legislators and Gov. Tim Walz to make bonding and tax bills a reality. These are their opportunities to provide meaningful tax relief for farmers and small employers and build infrastructure and create quality jobs in every corner of this state.
Doug Loon of St. Paul is president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and Jason George of Minneapolis is business manager for IUOE Local 49. They wrote this for the News Tribune.