Weather Forecast


Capitol chatter: Presidential candidates tout the need for small businesses

ST. PAUL -- The two major presidential candidates say they love small businesses and want to help.

"Now, Gov. Romney and I do share a deep interest in encouraging small-business growth," President Barack Obama said during his first debate with challenger Mitt Romney. "So at the same time that my tax plan has already lowered taxes for 98 percent of families, I also lowered taxes for small businesses 18 times. And what I want to do is continue the tax rates -- the tax cuts that we put into place for small businesses and families."

Romney claims, however, that Obama's tax plan would cost businesses 700,000 jobs. His own plan, he said, would "get the rates down, lower deductions and exemptions to create more jobs, because there's nothing better for getting us to a balanced budget than having more people working, earning more money, paying more taxes."

Despite all of this love showered on small businesses, a University of North Dakota professor said, they need to explain how they would deal differently with urban and rural firms.

"If that doesn't happen, the long process of rural depopulation continues and you get these towns dwindling and dwindling," said David Flynn, chairman of the school's Economics Department.

Flynn said that the winner of the presidential campaign needs to order agencies to look into differences between rural and urban businesses and develop different plans. "There is such a large difference in what it takes to succeed."

Even though Obama touts investments made in small businesses in the past four years, Republicans note that the programs producing that investment were in place before Obama took office.

Study, then agree

The Minnesota Revenue Department says it needs to complete a study before reaching agreement with Wisconsin to give both states' taxpayers an easier tax return season.

Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said Minnesota remains committed to working out an income tax reciprocity agreement, even though the states failed to reach a deal in time for returns due next April.

"Though it's disappointing we were unable to reach an agreement with Wisconsin that simplifies tax filing for border residents and fairly compensates Minnesota for its revenue loss, we continue to work on the benchmark study that will provide the data needed to get an agreement in place for 2014," Frans said.

The study is to be finished in March.

Tax reciprocity allows taxpayers who live in one state and work in the other to file just one state tax return. Then the state that collects the most money, in this case Wisconsin, pays the other state taxes that are due.

Minnesota efficient

Minnesota is one of the 10 most energy efficient states, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy reports.

But two of its western neighbors, North Dakota and South Dakota, are in the bottom 10 days, the council added.

The ratings in a large part reflect state laws and rules.

"These findings show that energy efficiency is being embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike at the state level," council Executive Director Steven Nadel said. "That nonpartisan status is crucial because too many conversations about U.S. energy policy begin with the false premise that the only way to safeguard our reliable energy future is to expand our supply. While some supply investments will be needed, the truth is that step one should always be energy efficiency, our cheapest, cleanest and fastest energy resource."

A Marvin mention

President Obama did not call it by name, but his closing statement in the first presidential debate included a tribute to Warroad-based Marvin Windows and Doors.

"You know, four years ago we were going through a major crisis, and yet my faith and confidence in the American future is undiminished," Obama said. "And the reason is because of its people. ... Because of the company in Minnesota who was willing to give up salaries and perks for their executives to make sure that they didn't lay off workers during a recession."

It actually was a recycled remark. Obama included similar references in at least two other speeches, including at this year's Democratic National Convention.

The other Minnesota connection in the initial debate was Mitt Romney's mention of Mayo Clinic of Rochester.

Gun advocates watching

A Wall Street Journal story illustrates how hunters and other gun advocates see difference between the two major presidential candidates.

Outdoors retailer Cabela's expects a run on guns and ammunition if President Barack Obama is re-elected, much like happened when he first was elected in 2008, because many gun owners expect him to try to crack down on guns. They wanted to stock up on items they thought might be hard to obtain under Obama.

If challenger Mitt Romney wins, however, a Cabela's spokesman said the Republican supports gun owners, so they likely would spend their money on outdoors clothes instead of ammunition and guns.

There has been little change in federal gun laws in the four years Obama has been in office. His campaign said that the president supports the Second Amendment that gives Americans the right to own guns.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.