Minnesota House panel tries to counter Wisconsin ‘propaganda’

The DFL chair of  the Minnesota House Commerce Committee says he wants Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker to stop trying to lure companies across the border by portraying the Badger State as the better place to do business.

Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said that's why he held an interim committee hearing today that included a comparison of the business climates of Minnesota and Wisconsin. He invited Walker to attend but did not get a response.

"It's not about Wisconsin bashing," Atkins said. "But whenever you start comparing the two states, particularly on sports but also economically, there's this exaggeration and propaganda and all of that that tends to occur."

Most of the numbers favor Minnesota. Atkins's committee heard testimony from Myles Shaver, a professor at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. He highlighted Minnesota's Fortune 500 companies, which in 2010 were more than double the number in Wisconsin (20 to 9).

"Minnesota is the most headquarter-intensive state in the nation," Shaver said.

Kim Babine, director of government affairs at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, offered data that show the state outperforming Wisconsin on key measures for educational attainment, economic growth, job growth and per capita income.

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Afterwards, Atkins said the verdict on business climate was clear.

"I think Gov. Walker is full of baloney," he said. "But where I'd like to leave it is that I think there are opportunities to work together as a region."

Republican members of the committee used the hearing as another opportunity to blast recently passed DFL tax increases, which they contend will drive businesses out of Minnesota. Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said he's concerned that an income tax increase on top earners and new business-to-business sales taxes will halt business growth.

"If we're so good, why do we have to bribe people to come here?," Davids asked. " I love Minnesota. All of the businesses I've started have been in Minnesota. But it begs the question, why would I start one now?"