Talking with business leaders

Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, (standing left) and Sen. Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna (standing right) talk with local business leaders on Thursday morning at the Comfort Inn in Owatonna. (Derek Sullivan/People's Press)

OWATONNA — Rep. John Petersburg and Sen. Vicki Jensen agreed on a lot of things Thursday morning, but not everything.

During a “Coffee with the Legislators” forum sponsored by the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism at the Owatonna Comfort Inn, Petersburg, R-Waseca, and Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, told local business leaders that the 2013 session yielded too many taxes, and both lawmakers pledged to keep working on the expansion of Highway 14 between Owatonna and Dodge Center.

Jensen said she has major issues with the recently passed changes to estate and gift taxes, and she said she hopes the increases will be overturned before they are implemented next year. Jensen was one of four DFL Senate members who voted against the tax bill, which raised taxes on high-income earners, smokers and many businesses.

Petersburg said he thought the DFL-majority in the Legislature “egregiously overreached” on taxes. He said he felt the $1.60 a pack cigarette tax increase hurt people living in poverty more than the 2 percent income tax increase for Minnesota’s wealthiest.

Both local lawmakers touted their work on Highway 14. Jensen said she was pleased with the $300 million set aside for “Corridors of Commerce,” which includes roads such as Highway 14. Petersburg, who sits on two House transportation committees, said he made sure every committee meeting included a discussion on the two-lane 20-mile stretch of road between Owatonna and Dodge Center.

It wasn’t until a discussion on the recently approved bill to allow daycare and home-care providers to unionize did the two politicians differ in opinion.

A bill, passed on May 20 after two days of debate, would allow daycare and childcare providers to unionize. After the bill was passed, union supporters would have four years to organize and vote on whether to form a union. To be successful, they will need more than 50 percent of in-home daycare providers to vote for the measure. The union members would then be able to bargain for higher reimbursements from the state and retain the option to file grievances, but childcare workers would not have the right to strike.

The bill passed the House 68-66. Petersburg voted against it.

“If they choose to be unionized as a group, they will no longer be working for themselves,” Petersburg said. “The employer of record will be the state of Minnesota. The question is, why did we do that? Why should we be involved with that, taking away a person’s right to have complete control over their business.

“I know Vicki is going to disagree with me on that.”

She did.

“Specifically, factually, that is not what we passed,” Jensen countered. “The legislation we passed took away (the stipulation) that when you receive a federal subsidy, you can’t form a union. The legislation says now you can go out and form a union even if you are receiving a federal subsidy. .. We are not telling daycare providers anything other than if you want to form a union you can.”

Reach reporter Derek Sullivan at 444-2372, or follow him on Twitter @OPPSullivan

Reach reporter Derek Sullivan at 444-2372, or follow him on Twitter @OPPSullivan

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