Businessfolk are about as schizoid as the general population when it comes to wanting more public investment but balking at paying for it. But these captains of commerce clearly do want at least some forms of increased public investment in Minnesota.
The fourth annual survey conducted by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce reveals roughly the same kinds of conflicted opinions that show up in polling of the general population: strong convictions about the need for more public investment along with a contradictory, also timeless and predictable, aversion to paying more in taxes.
About two-thirds of business owners (350 firms were surveyed) said their top concern was access to affordable health care, making health-care costs the number one concern. Most proposals for addressing those concerns include at least some expansion of public-sector subsidies for coverage and access. "Controlling taxes and spending'' came in a distant second, with 43 percent saying that was a #1 concern, and K-12 education was close behind at 38 percent.
Meanwhile, an overwhelming 84 percent expressed support for "new money for highways and transit,'' according to a Chamber report on its findings, and there was "no consensus'' on the source of that new revenue. The Chamber summarized the situation as "a conflicted issue.''
Growth & Justice has been a consistent advocate for increased pubilc investment in transportation and health-care and environmental protections as a tried-and-true formula to build shared prosperity and economic growth. We also favor a more progressive tax structure to finance that investment.
We are emphatically pro-business and looking for common ground with business leaders on solutions to our problems, including the concept of at least some privatization models or user fees and tolls for transportation. One of our earliest fiscal proposals called for at least partial reductions in business taxes, which tend to be regressive, in return for restoration of higher income tax rates.
And it was encouraging on Wednesday to hear Bill Blazar, the chamber's eminent policy analyst and senior vice-president for Public Affairs & Business Development, say some encouraging things about the public sector as a possible model for effectiveness.
When MPR Midday host Gary Eichten asked Blazar whether business leaders always viewed government models as inevitably flawed or inefficient, Blazar cautiously praised Medicare and the Veterans Administration for providing a "pretty efficient model'' for delivering health care.
Moreover, Blazar said, "not too many'' business leaders would argue that "the private sector is always more efficient.''
— Dane Smith