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PHIL KRINKIE: Dayton, Swanson hang out 'Not Welcome' sign

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Attorney General Lori Swanson have made it clear that if you are a small-business owner, a big corporation or even a major philanthropist, you are not welcome in Minnesota.

Phil Krinkie
Phil Krinkie is president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Attorney General Lori Swanson have made it clear that if you are a small-business owner, a big corporation or even a major philanthropist, you are not welcome in Minnesota.

The change started in January, when Dayton released his tax reform plan. The plan proposed taxing all business-to-business transactions. It drew instant objections from businesses large and small.

Because no other state imposes an across-the-board sales tax on business-to-business services, many companies started to consider the possibility of moving to another state.

But it wasn't just Dayton's proposed tax that got people thinking about relocation. Dayton has also proposed increasing taxes on people who live outside of the state for more than six months.

His so-called "snowbird" tax would levy tax penalties on individuals who escape our Minnesota winters and high-tax climate for more tax- and weather-friendly locations.

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And of course, Dayton's "Not Welcome" messages fly out to more people than just business owners and snowbirds. Dayton is the champion of the "tax the rich" mantra, which is why entrepreneurs and small-business owners believe they are a target for higher taxes.

As if that's not enough, Dayton also wants to close "corporate tax loopholes." This is code for higher taxes on Minnesota corporations that have foreign operating profits.

Even though Dayton dropped his plan to tax business-to-business transactions, his plan still includes raising the top income tax rate by 23 percent on any one earning more than $150,000 a year.

Dayton's chorus of "higher taxes" is being joined by DFL leaders in the House and Senate. In fact, not only have they joined the governor but also they've piled on, adding a laundry list of additional proposals such as higher taxes on gasoline and deeds plus new taxes on internet purchases and health insurance.

Furthermore, the DFL-controlled Legislature isn't stopping at trying to increase taxes on everything businesses do. It also has proposed raising the minimum wage by 45 percent.

Between Dayton and the Democratic lawmakers, it's hard to distinguish who is doing more to hang out the "Not Welcome" sign.

And just when you thought no one could do more to drive a stake in the state's entrepreneurial spirit, Swanson rides into the spot light. Last week, the attorney general held a public hearing to lambaste Sanford Health executives about a possible merger with Fairview Health Services.

The hearing's undercurrent was that Swanson didn't approve of Sanford Health's close association with its main benefactor, T. Dennis Sanford.

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And Sanford Health got the message. Only a few days later, Sanford CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft announced that a possible merger with Fairview Health was off.

The proposed merger "has turned into a situation that finds us being unwelcome by some interested parties and key stakeholders," Krabbenhoft said in a published letter.

For some reason, Swanson didn't appreciate the idea of Sanford Health or St. Paul native and University of Minnesota graduate Sanford himself playing a major role in the U's hospital and medical-education program.

Sanford Health is the largest nonprofit rural health care system in the country, with 35 hospitals and 140 clinics in eight states. Why would Minnesota's attorney general not want such an organization to feature in Minnesota's health care delivery system?

It's inconceivable that elected officials in Minnesota would rebuke a large and well-respected business like Sanford Health. And at the same time Swanson was yanking away the welcome mat from the nonprofit, she also was slamming the door in the face of Sanford, one of the top 50 philanthropists in America. Sanford has donated more than $600 million to the health care organization that bears his name.

In the wake of these actions, our state's reputation will evolve from being "only" a high-tax state to being both a high-tax state and one that's hostile to business.

At a time when our state's economy is starting to rebound, Dayton and his DFL cronies are sending the wrong message by pulling the welcome mat from under the feet of our business leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropic community.

Krinkie is president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. He served eight terms in the state Legislature as a Republican representative from Lino Lakes, Minn.

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