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Articles in Category: Policy & Politics

Daniel Lightfoot Joins MnRA For The 2014 Legislative Session

U of M graduate excited to experience life at the State Capitol

Meet Daniel Lightfoot, MnRA's government affairs assistant/intern for the 2014 legislative session.

My name is Daniel Lightfoot and I am a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in Political Science and History.  I grew up in Plymouth, Minnesota where my passion for public service motivated me to secure internships with both the Office of Senator Al Franken as the economic policy intern and the White House working with the Office of Management and Administration. 

It is my pleasure to be working with the Minnesota Retailers Association during this upcoming legislative session.  I am eager to apply my skills and knowledge of congressional politics for the benefit of MnRA’s members with the hope of actively communicating with members to provide updates on all public policy issues that are of interest to retailers across the state of Minnesota.

Although this session is rather short, it is sure to be a fast-paced session packed with a number of controversial issues many of which will directly impact retailers both big and small.  Therefore it is my goal to be a resource to each and every one of our members as the session progresses to effectively manage and communicate our policy positions. 

I have always prided myself as being a quick learner and one who works best under pressure and what better way to showcase those skills than hitting the ground running this session?   I look forward to meeting as many of our members as possible and I am proud to be a part of MnRA’s mission in making Minnesota a strong place for retailers to do business and continuing to support such a vital industry. 

Let's Make This Is The Last Holiday Shopping Season Without E-Fairness

This holiday season, small business owners in Minnesota and across the country are sending a single wish list to members of Congress

This holiday season, small business owners in Minnesota and across the country are sending a single wish list to members of Congress: close the online sales tax loophole, giving all retailers the chance to compete on a level playing field. Local employers are at a severe disadvantage to out of state online-only retailers, especially at this time of year--the busiest and most important season for small retailers.

Today, all local businesses are required to collect and remit sales taxes from customers, while many online retailers without some type of physical presence in Minnesota like Overstock and eBay are not required to do so.  While the Minnesota Legislature passed e-fairness earlier this year, out of state retailers without a presence in the state have a substantial pricing advantage against local small businesses, who cannot compete when the government essentially gives their competitors at least a 6.875 percent pricing advantage.

In September, retailers were encouraged when U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released 'Basic Principles on Remote Sales Tax,' which will serve as a framework for a conservative solution to finally close the online sales tax loophole. The release of these principles shows Chairman Goodlatte's strong commitment to ending the preferential tax treatment for online-only retailers at the expense of main street retailers.   While this is a positive step in the right direction, business owners are calling on Congress to take swift action by drafting legislation based on these principles and passing the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"This needs to be the last holiday shopping season local retailers operate under this disadvantage in Minnesota and across the country," says Minnesota Retailers Association President Bruce Nustad. "At the state level, we have done our job to address this serious issue for retailers, now Congress needs to get e-fairness passed." 

The U.S. Senate, with leadership from Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, acted on e-fairness legislation earlier this year, when it passed the Marketplace Fairness Act by a wide, bipartisan vote, and a companion bill in the House already enjoys the support of over 60 bipartisan co-sponsors.  A recent study conducted by President Ronald Reagan's economist, Art Laffer, showed that e-fairness legislation coupled with state tax cuts would increase our nation's prosperity and employment-resulting in 1.5 million jobs in the next 10 years and creating an additional $563.2 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

Governors, small business owners, and free market conservatives across the country have expressed their support for e-fairness legislation and agree that Congress needs to pass e-fairness legislation to give states the ability to collect these taxes online, as soon as possible.

Dirty Harry-Era Deposit Recycling Program Proposed

MPCA charged with presenting a plan to the Legislature by January 14

The same year Academy Award winner Clint Eastwood starred as a no-nonsense San Francisco cop in the 1971 movie Dirty Harry, Oregon passed the nation’s first beverage container deposit-refund law.  Forty-two years later, Minnesota is looking at a similar approach to boost recycling rates, despite the success of innovations like curbside, single sort, and voluntary retail recycling programs.

Following direction from the 2013 Legislature, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is tasked with submitting (by January 14) a plan to increase Minnesota’s beverage container recycling rate to 80 percent. In preparation for that submission, on September 16 MPCA released a draft program design for a 10 cent deposit-refund program on beverage containers, up to one gallon. 

The plan calls for the creation of massive infrastructure through non-profit administration of the program. This infrastructure may include as many as 1,100 container redemption sites across the state.

Retailers would be on the front line of the system, responsible for collecting, administering, and remitting the 10 cent per beverage container deposit. And just like with sales taxes, this would be done at the expense of the retailer with no reimbursement of training, point of sale, collection, accounting, and remittance costs. Retailers even end up paying the swipe fees on 10 cent deposits when consumers use a debit or credit card.

The proposed system stands to increase consumer prices at a time when our economy needs spending to fuel our recovery.  Consider a case of water a customer purchases on a summer day. The price of that water could double with the addition of a $2.40 deposit, even more when a retailer is forced to add administration expenses to the price. Arguably a consumer may skip that purchase, or in the case of a retailer operating in a border-state community, the consumer may elect to take the entire purchase across the border.

MPCA is currently working on an assessment of the financial impact of the proposed deposit-refund beverage container program, with a draft report due December 30.  Additionally, MPCA will perform an evaluation of Minnesota’s current recycling infrastructure before May 30. Retailers can follow the program on MPCA’s website.

788,000 jobs across Minnesota depend on the economic viability of job-producing retailers like you. The proposed deposit-refund beverage container recycling program is a decades-old approach threatening these jobs by adding expense to retailers, increasing consumer prices, and dismissing the exploration of modern day alternatives.

MnRA recently submitted comments on the proposed program.  Click here to view all the public comments.

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