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Olson proposes wood-product companies that permanently close plants would be required to maintain the site for two years

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Minnesota should protect jobs in the wood-products industry by preserving closed plants, a senator said.

Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, proposes that a wood-product company that permanently closes a Minnesota facility be required to maintain the site for two years. That would make it possible for another company to buy and use the facility, she said.

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Olson told the Senate Taxes Committee Wednesday that the Ainsworth Lumber Co. shut down its composite-wood facility in Bemidji earlier this year. Olson said the legislation is an attempt to keep closed facilities in "saleable operating condition, rather than taking and stripping the equipment and infrastructure from these locations, making it probably inevitable that these jobs will never return to Minnesota."

"The intent is to preserve the availability of these jobs in Minnesota," Olson told the Senate Taxes Committee Wednesday. The committee set the bill aside for further consideration.

Similar legislation is moving in the House, authored by Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji. Republican Rep. Bud Nornes, who sits on a committee that considered the proposal, said state government does not have jurisdiction to require such action.

Grants proposed

Budding Minnesota businesses could get off the ground with a little state help, a lawmaker said in promoting a business grant program.

A proposal by Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, would allow local governments, such as cities and counties, could seek a grant that would fund low-interest loans to businesses

Unlike the state's Job Opportunity Building Zones program that provides tax breaks to rural Minnesota businesses, Olson's plan has no geographic requirements, she said. However, state officials must take into account unemployment rates and median household income levels in grant applicants' communities.

Olson proposed that the program be paid for with state general fund dollars, but said Wednesday that the Senate Taxes Committee may consider other possible funding sources.

Teacher license

Professionals who want to become teachers may not have an easy route to receive teaching licenses after a House committee Wednesday rejected the proposal.

The House K-12 Education Finance Division voted 11-10 to strip the provision from an overall education bill.

During earlier testimony, teachers told the committee that there is a difference between understanding how to do a job and teaching about it.

The provision, like one proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, would ease the path to teacher licenses in an attempt to attract professionals from many fields to education.

Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, said that too many teacher positions go vacant because there are not enough people to fill them. Some fields and some areas have an especially difficult time filing openings.

"We are looking for good standards to respond to very real needs," he said.

The Senate has a provision to the one Mariani promoted in the House, so the issue still could be part of discussion this legislative session.

Taxes for jobs?

State government needs more tax revenue to pay for job-growing economic development programs, a leading senator said.

Senate Taxes Chairman Tom Bakk, a Cook Democrat and DFL candidate for governor in 2010, said a tax increase is needed to fund programs that promote job growth.

"We're going to spend some money on jobs in this (tax) bill," Bakk told his committee Wednesday. "We have to raise some revenue to do it. I'm going to get all kicked around when we roll out a tax bill with a tax increase in it, but the fact of life is that if we're going to turn this state around and put people to work, it's going to take programs like this and they're going to cost real money."

Bakk's comments came during a discussion of legislation providing tax incentives to renewable energy and other so-called "green" industry companies.

Foreclosure ban blocked

A Senate panel blocked an attempt to pass a one-year statewide moratorium on residential mortgage foreclosures.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, asked the Senate economic development budget committee to include in its spending bill a one-year ban on mortgage foreclosures. That could give financially struggling homeowners time to find ways to stay in their home, proponents said.

Committee Chairman David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, earlier this session proposed a mortgage foreclosure moratorium, but said Wednesday he did not want the policy proposal in his budget bill. The amendment failed on a voice vote.

The foreclosure discussion was part of the committee's debate over a two-year, $415 million spending bill.

Ainsworth bill eyed

Minnesota should protect jobs in the wood-products industry by preserving closed plants, a senator said.

Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, proposes that a wood-product company that permanently closes a Minnesota facility be required to maintain the site for two years. That would make it possible for another company to buy and use the facility, she said.

Olson told the Senate Taxes Committee Wednesday that the Ainsworth Lumber Co. shut down its composite-wood facility in Bemidji earlier this year. Olson said the legislation is an attempt to keep closed facilities in "saleable operating condition, rather than taking and stripping the equipment and infrastructure from these locations, making it probably inevitable that these jobs will never return to Minnesota."

"The intent is to preserve the availability of these jobs in Minnesota," Olson told the Senate Taxes Committee Wednesday. The committee set the bill aside for further consideration.

Similar legislation is moving in the House, authored by Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji. Republican Rep. Bud Nornes, who sits on a committee that considered the proposal, said state government does not have jurisdiction to require such action.

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