The economy has nothing to fear from the DFL dominance

From an economic perspective, the best thing about the 2022 election might be that it’s over.

I don’t mean just because we don’t have to suffer from the nasty TV commercials now. It’s also true that pre-election uncertainty is slowing decision-making and business growth. Now that businesses large and small know who will be leading the way in St. Paul, we can get to work, set a course and bring our expertise to the conversation.

Conventional wisdom is that the business community has traditionally followed Republican policies. But promoting and growing the state’s economy is not a partisan affair. Both sides of the aisle must work together to ensure Minnesota businesses and families weather the projected economic slowdown with as little pain as possible and position our state for success on the other side.

My message is: companies don’t have to fear an all-DFL state government.

The Minneapolis Regional Chamber and our members have worked closely with Governor Tim Walz, Commissioner for Employment and Economic Development Steve Grove, and the entire Walz administration for the past four years. We’ve found them to be responsive and attentive even when we disagree.

Your track record is strong. Minnesota recently had the lowest unemployment rate of any state in US history. We have one of the highest employment rates in the country. Our job growth this year surpassed the US. And since the pandemic began, Minnesota small business startups have increased by 41%.

The CEOs and business leaders I speak to every day are optimistic that we will be successful at the State Capitol in the coming year.

First of all, there should be no fear of a state government shutdown. While divided government has its perks, the missed meeting dates and the constant fear of blowing up the fiscal year-end without a state budget are not among them. Everyone should feel good about planning a Fourth of July vacation this year without fear of state parks closing.

Additionally, we believe there is room for bipartisan support on critical issues leading to greater prosperity in Minneapolis-St. Paul Region and throughout the state. This includes managing rising costs for businesses and families, developing and educating our workforce, ensuring we have affordable housing, and investing in the infrastructure that will fuel growth, including transportation and transit.

With a state budget surplus that some are predicting could exceed $10 billion, we have an extraordinary opportunity to give money back to Minnesota families while making targeted one-time investments that help grow our economy – and more Put money in people’s bank accounts for the long term. That large surplus is also likely to dampen some Democrats’ desire for tax increases, which would be a bad idea as businesses and families grapple with unprecedented rates of inflation and economists are predicting a recession in the first half of 2023.

The legislature should also take up the unfinished work of the 2022 session and pass significant bonding legislation. Improvements to our state’s roads, bridges, and transportation infrastructure, as well as other public needs such as buildings and college renovations, will pay dividends in the future. We should also seek access to appropriate federal funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act.

Although Democrats now have unified control of the legislature and the governor’s office, they have achieved this by flipping just one seat in the Minnesota Senate. While it was better than expected for Democrats, the election was mostly a message to stay the course and work together. Our business members want cross-departmental collaboration, even with a responsible party. And with narrow majorities in the Minnesota House and Senate, focusing on issues with broad support seems like a good strategy.

Experts say tough economic times could lie ahead. That’s one more reason for business leaders to get involved and work with DFL folks who call the shots in St. Paul. To achieve the things that keep Minnesota strong, the public and private sectors must row in the same direction. I’m confident we can do that in 2023.

Jonathan Weinhagen is President and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber. On Twitter at @jweinhagen and @MplsChamber.

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