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Minnesota Chamber of Commerce report scores 2013-14 Legislature’s votes

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce published its legislative voting record guide on Monday, releasing a bill-by-bill assessment of some of the major developments during the 2014 session, along with individual voting records for each state legislator. The business group scored lawmakers for their votes on raising the minimum wage, cutting business taxes and proposed changes to the Women’s Economic Security Act, among other pieces of legislation.

For the most part, the Chamber favored measures brought forth by Republican lawmakers, most of which failed when put to a vote in either of the DFL-controlled legislative chambers.

In an introduction to the report, Laura Bordelon, vice president for advocacy with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, said the state had made progress during the past biennium, but also saw “setbacks” that could be blamed on the government.

“The policy and fiscal implications of decisions made by the Legislature and Governor will not be fully known for several years,” Bordelon said. “It is clear, however, that the path they have chosen for Minnesota is one that relies on higher taxes and more government spending as a means to a better state economy, rather than an economically competitive model that strengthens and improves the state’s overall business and job-creation climate.”

The Chamber was opposed to the move to increase the minimum wage from the current level of $6.15 to $9.50, which will be phased in by 2016, and comes with an inflation adjustment provision that begins in 2018. In its report, the organization warns that the new minimum could result in fewer “entry-level” jobs for unskilled or young employees.

On another measure, the Chamber supported a move to publish the insurance rates that would affect small businesses in 2015 by October 1 of this year. Despite repeated efforts by Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, Democrats managed to block that effort, arguing on each occasion that Dean’s amendment was not germane to the bill then on the floor.

One of the few bright spots highlighted by the pro-business advocacy group was the adoption of a measure to increase “efficiencies” within the Department of Transportation’s budget. A goal of 5 percent efficiency for the coming fiscal year, which would mean some $46 million in savings, is described as a “long-overdue” step toward more effective spending on the state’s transportation needs.

A number of Republican legislators received a perfect vote rating from the Chamber, including House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt and Rep. Pam Myhra, R-Burnsville, who opted to leave the Legislature to serve as GOP gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert‘s running mate. Another entrant in that race, Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, voted with the Chamber’s position on nine of 11 issues tracked, but missed votes related to environmental permitting and on a bill that would move the state to a June primary election, which the Chamber supports.

Scott Honour’s chosen running mate, Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, also managed a perfect 11-for-11 score by the Chamber’s count.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, House Majority Leader Erin Murphy and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk each received only one positive rating, for their affirmative votes on a tax repeal and federal income tax conformity bill that passed overwhelmingly this session.

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