Guest commentary: Reform 2.0: Minnesota’s agenda

By Bob Barrett, Representative Dist. 17B

The 2012 legislative session convened this week on a note of economic optimism – after year upon year of projected budget deficits, Minnesota now has an estimated $876 million surplus.

In the face of a $6.2 billion dollar deficit at the start of last session, the Legislature’s prudent fiscal management was able to improve the state’s bottom line by $7 billion in only 12 months. This is no small feat.

For the first time in four years, a legislative session has begun on an extremely positive note instead of worry and dread over how to solve the latest budget deficit.

Because of this, my colleagues and I are focused on – and committed to – fostering a sustainable and strong economic climate in Minnesota. We promote these aims through a collaborative effort called Reform 2.0.

Reform 2.0 is a package of initiatives aimed to help improve the private sector economy, restore economic confidence, reform education and health care, and reduce the size and cost of government.

One such initiative involves mandate relief. The Legislature will work with local governments to provide requested relief through the elimination of redundant and outdated state mandates.

Other Reform 2.0 initiatives acknowledge the fact that Minnesota’s current commercial regulations are unnecessarily burdensome and obstructive, triggering businesses to move to border states or border countries. Reform 2.0 will enhance the Angel Investment Tax Credit in order to spur innovative entrepreneurship.

Reform 2.0 also includes a reduction in small- to medium-sized business property taxes through an exclusion of the first $100,000 in business property value. We also hope to eliminate the state portion of commercial and industrial property tax; however, this exact initiative was vetoed by Governor Dayton last session.

For my part, I will re-introduce border zone legislation that was also vetoed by the governor last session. My bill would have allowed the city of Taylors Falls to compete on an even footing for new business with St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, whose commercial property taxes are half of what they are in Minnesota.

My optimism for this bill going forward comes from the fact that for the previous four years, this particular piece of legislation never got out of committee but, last session, made it all the way to the executive branch before being stopped by Governor Dayton’s veto.

These pro-growth initiatives come on the heels of the recently announced three-year-low state unemployment rate of 5.7 percent for December. This is proof that our economy will revive and thrive without job-killing tax increases and ‘tax and spend’ stimulus packages.

To put into perspective what was started last year, the state’s unemployment rate has dropped by 1.5 percent in just the last four months – this is the largest four month reduction since 1976. While this is an extremely encouraging sign, more needs to be done as many people are still out of work or underemployed.

In talking with business owners over the past year, they are clear regarding their needs: they’re not looking for government aid. Rather, they need fewer regulatory roadblocks and lower property taxes so that they have an opportunity to succeed.

Reform 2.0 was developed by and for Minnesotans at town hall meetings across the state. Hundreds of business owners, local government leaders, and interested citizens provided feedback over the course of the summer. Reform 2.0 is not the Legislature’s agenda; it is Minnesota’s agenda for moving forward and thriving.

I thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the state legislature.  Please feel free to contact me with any thoughts regarding Reform 2.0 or the 2012 legislative session. I can be reached at 651-296-5377 or by e-mail at


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