Legislature Hits the Ground Running on E-Fairness and Clothing Tax
Minnesota Senator Ann Rest held hearings in her Tax Reform Subcommittee this week on a variety of tax-related bills she introduced, including a MnRA-supported measure to address E-Fairness, and a MnRA-opposed clothing sales tax exemption repeal. Sen. Rest also introduced a digital goods tax bill.
MnRA's Rochelle Westlund lead the Mainstreet Fairness Coalition in testifying in support of Rest's E-Fairness bill, S.F. 8. A special thank you to MnRA Board member Roberta Bonoff, owner of Creative Kidstuff, and Michael Weinhagen, owner of Weinhagen Tire Company, for sharing their stories with the Subcommittee to illustrate how this bill would help level the playing field for retailers.
Other organizations testifying in support of E-Fairness were the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, the Metro Independent Business Alliance, the Minnesota Business Partnership, and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
With widespread bipartisan support, in addition to support from the Governor's office, we are hopeful that E-Fairness will have a path to passage.
Click here to see summary of E-Fairness testimony from KARE-11.
Click here to watch an archive of the full hearing.
Clothing Sales Tax
Relative to the measures to expand sales tax to clothing (S.F. 9/S.F. 11), MnRA along with the Mall of America testified in opposition to these bills due to the potential impact they could have on retailers.
In today's turbulent economy, extending Minnesota sales tax to clothing would take disposable income out of the hands of consumers. The resulting reduction in spending would impact businesses bottom line, and hinder retailers' ability to maintain and create jobs. With one in four Minnesota jobs depending on retail, it is important Minnesota makes public policy that encourages growth.
Minnesota Legislature convenes this week
Minnesota's Legislature convenes at noon this Tuesday with many new faces and several veterans returning to the Capitol to do the work of the people of Minnesota. With the DFL leading the Minnesota Senate and House, as well as holding the Governor's office, retailers across Minnesota will be intently assessing the focus and progress of this year's Legislature.
At the top of the Minnesota Retailers Association (MnRA) agenda again this year is mainstreet sales tax collection fairness, or E-Fairness. Given the discussions Governor Mark Dayton and legislative leaders have had surrounding comprehensive tax reform, E-Fairness and many other tax policies are likely to be given serious consideration this year.
MnRA's agenda extends beyond E-Fairness and includes concerns about potential taxes on food, clothing, and retail services, in addition to increased excise taxes. MnRA plans to engage the Legislature in conversations about what Minnesota's future tax systems looks like and how it impacts Minnesota's retail community.
In addition to E-Fairness and taxes, MnRA has several other items on its agenda for this legislative session, including advocating for changes in convenience gas payment mandates, pharmacy law updates, and organized retail crime penalty enhancements. MnRA has also identified extended producer responsibility, competitive interchange fees, and Minnesota's healthcare exchange as areas where the association will aggressively represent our retail members.
With one in four Minnesota jobs directly dependent on the vibrancy of the retail industry, we hope retail is strongly on legislators' agenda this year.
Foreign policy positions and the retail economy
When President Obama and Governor Romney square off this evening in their third and final debate, America anticipates hearing about the candidates' foreign policy positions. At the Minnesota Retailers Association, we expect this debate to be as much about retail and our economy as foreign policy. Both candidates understand the need to tie the U.S. economy directly to their international policies and proposals in order to connect the dots for the undecided voter.
Here are the alignments we expect to see between foreign policy positions and retail/the economy:
President Barack Obama
To be re-elected, President Obama needs to continue to credit his policies with what he has often called "signs of an improving U.S. economy". Tonight he will connect the dots between his foreign policy positions (ranging from the United Nations and Iran, to international trade) to specific improvements in the economy over the past 18 months. Expect the President to reference unemployment declines to woo the middle class and--specific to retail--gains in consumer confidence when talking about his successes. We are likely to see the President piece together things like oil prices and U.S. export activity to help voters directly connect economic improvements to his foreign policy record. President Obama will paint a more optimistic picture of the U.S. economy tonight than he did in first two debates in an effort to help voters feel good about the country's direction.
Governor Mitt Romney
Governor Romney knows that Americans feeling sketchy about our economic future improves his chances of being elected. Romney also knows that U.S. presidents running for re-election during a time of economic underperformance and uncertainty have a difficult time winning the confidence of voters. In addition to hammering away on what he calls soft-at-best economic improvement, Governor Romney may assert that President Obama has lacked a domestic economic focus. He likely will use this to combat any momentum the President may gain in the area of foreign affairs, such as the death of Osama Bin Laden. To overcome his opponent's effort to paint him as an elitist, Romney will look to appeal to the average American by showing an understanding of today's economic pains including retail-centric items like gas prices and consumer spending.
This evening's debate begins at 8:00 p.m. and will be broadcast on most major television networks.