Report: Taxes, Health Care Halting Econ. Recovery

According to a statewide survey of business owners and managers, taxes and changes in health care are the leading factors standing in the way of Minnesota's economic recovery.

Minnesota business owners and managers are blaming taxes and health care issues for the state's slow progress in economic recovery, according to the seventh annual Minnesota Business Barometer Survey.

The Minnesota Business Barometer Survey-which is co-sponsored by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Bloomington-based Himle Horner, Inc.-showed that slightly more than 40 percent of all employers, as well as Minnesota Chamber members polled, said Minnesota was emerging more slowly than other states from the recession.

In addition, nearly 30 percent of those polled in the general business community said the state's economy was improving, and a similar percentage said it was worsening, according to the findings.

Looking back, less than 20 percent surveyed said they were more profitable than last year, and 30 percent said they were less profitable.

Taxes and health care expenses ranked as the biggest concerns among the general business community, as well as Minnesota Chamber members. When asked for the top two barriers to job creation, employers surveyed specified taxes (64 percent) and the cost of health care (29 percent).

Forty-six percent of employers surveyed said that their tax burdens were increasing. Health care and taxes also ranked as the top two issues for the governor and lawmakers to address, with 54 percent of those surveyed selecting health care and 39 percent selecting taxes and spending.

The Minnesota Chamber said that these two issues have been ranked at the top since the Business Barometer began in 2004.

On a more positive note, respondents reported long-term optimism about their ability to compete with businesses in other states. Seventy-nine percent said they were optimistic about Minnesota's economic future over the next 10 years, while only 18 percent stated that they were pessimistic.

“Some statistics suggest that Minnesota may be turning the corner and starting our economic recovery. But the Business Barometer demonstrates that this perception is trumped by the reality of a lack of business confidence,” David Olson, Minnesota Chamber president, said in a statement. “Business owners and managers want to invest in Minnesota, but there continues to be too much uncertainty in government policy at the state and federal levels for those investments to be made. It's imperative that policy-makers take steps to place Minnesota employers on a competitive playing field.”

The Minnesota Chamber will release the full results of the Minnesota Business Barometer Survey on Tuesday at its annual meeting. It is the state's largest chamber with 2,400 members.

-Melissa Loth