Will the 2017 session be sunny side up for business owners?

State legislators gathered Friday morning for the Brainerd Chamber Eggs and Issues forum to talk business-friendly reforms, including property tax cuts and health insurance.

Brainerd lakes area legislators shared a laugh Friday morning as they spoke as a panel for the 2017 Eggs and Issues forum, organized by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce. Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point (left), Rep. John Poston, R-Lake Shore, new Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, and Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin.

State legislators gathered Friday morning for the Brainerd Chamber Eggs and Issues forum to talk business-friendly reforms, including property tax cuts and health insurance.

The all-Republican delegation that assembled at Madden's Resort on Gull Lake included new Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, as well as Reps. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, and John Poston, R-Lake Shore, who this year replaced Mark Anderson after he retired from the House of Representatives. Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, did not attend the forum.

Gazelka opened by saying he felt encouraged by the recent tone of bipartisanship among Republicans and DFLers, as evidenced by the health insurance relief bill signed into law Thursday and the collective response among lawmakers to Gov. Mark Dayton's fainting during the State of the State address Monday.

"Republicans and Democrats were actively engaged in helping him, protecting his privacy, keeping the media back," he said. "I'm incredibly proud of how we responded."

In addition to health insurance changes he said that he signed into law, Dayton promised Gazelka that reforms on reinsurance (where health insurance companies themselves take out insurance to cover possible future losses) would be done by March, with a clean bill that had no legislative strings attached to it, Gazelka said.


Lueck said the fainting incident served as a gut-check for legislators about bipartisanship. As to business-related bills, Lueck highlighted one he introduced earlier this month which exempts the first $500,000 of commercial-industrial property value from state property taxes.

"It looks like a local property tax, but the dollars go straight into the (state) general fund," he said.

Gazelka, who also serves as chair of the tax committee, said both business and agriculture property tax relief were important to him. He would prefer to completely eliminate the state's special business property tax, but said it wasn't realistic this year.

Heintzeman said now was the time to push for business-friendly legislative initiatives.

"I hear more often from business owners that it feels like for a long time, they've been holding their breath," he said. "Just kind of waiting, hoping if they hang on long enough there'll be some relief when it comes to taxes, there'll be some help when it comes to health care, there'll be some improvement in Minnesota's economy. It's time for folks to be able to take a breath."

Republicans are building relationships with the DFL and with Dayton as best as possible, he said.

The committee Ruud chairs, Environment and Natural Resources Policy, would soon need input from businesses on environmental regulations, she said, since some rules from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are considered detrimental to business. However, many industries in the area depend on clean water, so the committee would need to tread carefully as it embarks on reforms, she acknowledged.

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