Senate commerce panel weighs in on business tax repeals

DFL leaders in the Minnesota Senate remain reluctant to repeal three business sales taxes that passed last session, but that hasn’t stopped other Senate Democrats from pushing the issue.

Members of the Senate Commerce Committee held an informational hearing today on bills to eliminate taxes on warehousing services, telecommunication equipment and business equipment repair.  They heard from several business owners being impacted by the taxes.

Sen. James Metzen, DFL- South St. Paul, who chairs the committee, said all three taxes should be repealed. Metzen said he thinks the hearing helped to send that message to the tax committee.

“Once in a while we do things wrong around here. So, we’re going to correct that wrong,” Metzen said. “We don’t want to lose these people to other states”

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Several DFL members of the committee spoke in favor of the proposed repeals. Republicans on the committee who opposed the taxes all along didn’t need any convincing.

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said he now sees bipartisan momentum building in the Senate.

“As you hear real live stories and real jobs that are going to leave the area if we don’t do something, that’s a powerful persuasion,” Gazelka said.

Senate Tax Chair Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, said the projected $1.2 billion budget surplus makes it possible to accomplish some of the repeals. But he still isn’t making any promises. Skoe said lawmakers were wrong in the late 1990s when they used a surplus to cut taxes and send out rebate checks.

“I’m not going to do anything today that repeats that error,” Skoe said.