Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer has released the first part of his budget plan, which he's calling his "jobs agenda."
The proposal comes after weeks of criticism from his opponents who say Emmer hasn't outlined how he'd deal with the state's looming budget deficit of nearly $6 billion in the next two-year budget cycle.
The "jobs agenda" which Emmer released Monday still doesn't answer that question, but it outlines broad tax cuts for businesses that he said will stimulate economic growth.
At a news conference at a manufacturing company in Burnsville Monday, Emmer downplayed the deficit issue.
"The biggest problem we face is not that government has a budget deficit, but that Minnesota has a jobs deficit," said Emmer.
Emmer said Minnesota's businesses are crippled by taxes, and that keeps them from hiring more workers. His proposal includes slashing and eventually repealing the corporate tax, providing tax relief to small business owners, reducing the state general property tax, and ramping up the state's Research and Development Tax Credit.
Emmer notes that some of these proposals have had bipartisan support in the state Legislature.
Emmer was not specific about how many jobs his proposal would create. He said he's mostly concerned with creating a business-friendly climate in the state.
“The biggest problem we face is not that government has a budget deficit, but that Minnesota has a jobs deficit.”Tom Emmer
"I'm not here to tell you I can save or create some number of jobs. Governors and governments don't do that, whatever some say," said Emmer. "What we can do is create a business climate that will lead to more job creation, a business climate that will encourage and incent more people to do business in our great state."
Emmer's proposed tax breaks add up to about $626 million, which would add to -- not take away from -- the state's budget deficit.
Emmer hinted at the need for slashing government spending to deal with that deficit. But he would not articulate where those cuts will come, and dodged questions from reporters who kept asking about specifics. He said he'll provide that information soon.
"I'll give all of you a hug before we go, but it's coming," said Emmer. "I told you back in July, and again in August, I don't want to peak on September 6. I want to peak on November 2nd."
"I think Tom Emmer's effort to put forward his job growth program is going to run into a lot of skeptical Minnesotans who are going to wonder how he's going to pay for it," said University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs.
Jacobs said Emmer's proposal so far raises a lot of questions, and added that Emmer will need to provide clearer ideas about his plans to limit government and reduce the deficit. That will be crucial, because, Jacobs noted, Minnesota is required by law to balance its budget.
"And this election's being fought over how you do it," said Jacobs.
Still, Jacobs said he thinks Emmer's proposal will appeal to some voters in its distinction from the other candidates' plans.
"Where you have both Horner and Dayton basically holding the line on government, in some areas actually expanding government services, Tom Emmer is coming out and offering a very different approach," Jacobs said.
Independence Party candidate Tom Horner's campaign issued a statement praising Emmer for acknowledging the need for business tax reform.
But Horner's campaign went on to say that "Tom Horner has the political honesty, and the plan, that tells Minnesotans how we will pay for that tax reform."
DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton could not be reached for comment. But the Minnesota DFL Party issued a statement calling Emmer's jobs proposal "smoke and mirrors."