Local business leaders plead with lawmakers to find a way to get rid of business-killing mandates
WILLMAR -- There's a list of government regulations local business leaders say they want revoked so that they could get on with the business of doing business.
The one that really gets the goat of some of those in the construction industry is a requirement to follow the prevailing wage scale when they get a contract for state or federal government projects.
Prevailing wages increase the cost of government-paid construction by 10 to 20 percent, said Richard Breitbach, president of Breitbach Construction, of Elrosa. The government could make "better use of money" than paying artificially inflated wages, he said.
Larry Davis, from Willmar Electric Service, said the prevailing wage mandate and private labor agreements essentially prohibit non-union companies from bidding on projects.
Davis asked when the government would realize that mandates cost taxpayers money and hurt private businesses.
These were complaints that Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, said he's heard repeatedly at community meetings he's attended recently with businesses leaders.
Gimse, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, and Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, met with a small group of business people Wednesday in Willmar as part of a series of 20 meetings Republican legislators are holding across the state.
The participants, including the legislators, had little good to say about the role of government in business. There was no debate or argument from anyone as the legislators heard numerous accounts of how government mandates interfere with businesses, and that government efforts to help businesses often fall short.
Loren Corle, president of the RELCO Unisystems Corp. of Willmar, said he pushed the numbers to see if his customers would benefit from using federal stimulus funding to upgrade their food processing facilities. He concluded the mandates attached to the money negated the benefits. "It was not worth it," said Corle.
Carol Laumer, from Rice Home Medical in Willmar, said increasingly costly administrative paperwork that requires them to "prove what we're doing is what people need," while at the same time seeing a 14 to 20 percent reduction in reimbursements, needs to be changed.
Health care was another issue on the table.
Lyle Lange, owner of Lange Agricultural Systems, asked why a Willmar business that is owned by a North Dakota company could purchase a less-expensive health insurance plan from North Dakota, when Minnesota businesses are prohibited from purchasing health insurance across state lines.
Davis liked the idea of health care cooperative as long as the government wouldn't put too many regulations and mandates on it. If the cooperatives would be allowed to run "without interference" from the state and federal government, they could work, he said.
Laumer echoed that sentiment. "The final word is, stay out of it," she said.
Corle encouraged the lawmakers to retract and repeal mandates that restrict business people from doing business.
Gimse said past efforts to do that have fallen short. But he said there's a growing resistance to having government "run our businesses" and "our private lives," and new attempts would be made in the 2010 legislative session to change that. "I see hope out there. I like what I see," said Gimse.
"We're seeing the pushback," said Ingebrigtsen.