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Jobs, improving government operations, tax relief top priorities in 2012

By Rep. Mark Murdock

The Legislature will convene in St. Paul later this month and I look forward to building on initial steps we took last year to improve the way our state operates.

This is not a budget year, per se, but many of the policy decisions we will make will have fiscal impacts. A package of bills designed to provide millions in tax relief for homeowners and businesses across Minnesota will be a top priority.

One thing that has become quite clear as we work to get our economy rolling again is the cost of doing business in Minnesota is too high.

National retailers continue to say they are shocked by our high tax rates, which are among the country's highest in terms of commercial industrial property taxes. This puts us at competitive disadvantage with our neighboring states. It is a problem we need to fix to spur private-sector job growth, another top priority this session.

"Reform" will continue to be a buzzword at the Capitol this session with the unveiling of a package of bills called Reform 2.0. The common thread is these measures will help us make better use of existing tax dollars. Among components in last year's Reform 1.0 were bills to streamline our business permitting process and another which formed a Sunset Commission. The Sunset Commission's mission is to maximize the effectiveness of our tax dollars by putting an end to obsolete government practices or implementing improved methods of operation where needed.

Our approach in reform comes down to asking ourselves is whether our existing tax dollars are being put to the best possible use. For example, do we really need five agencies dealing with water in this state? Maybe we do, but we owe it to the taxpayers to investigate and answer those questions instead of continuing to do things just because we've done them before.

It was great news to hear the November forecast calls for a budget surplus of nearly $900 million this biennium, just months after we were faced with erasing a $5 billion shortfall. This should provide incentive for continuing to make fiscally responsible decisions, even as we draft a bonding bill. The key will be to compile a list of prudent projects without allowing questionable extras to be piled on top. I support important projects for roadwork and the construction of a community center in Wadena to replace some of what was lost to tornadoes.

As always, I welcome input from local citizens as we prepare for the 2012 session to start and as we weigh the issues. I plan to conduct an online survey to receive feedback on everything from the aforementioned topics to a proposed Vikings stadium; stay tuned for more information.

You can reach me at, or by calling my legislative office at (651) 296-4293.