Current Business Issues
Southwest Light Rail Tranit
For updates on Southwest Light Rail and a request for $25 million in bonding during the 2012 legislative session, click here.
Gov. Dayton signs environmental permitting bill
by Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
April 2, 2012
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Mark Dayton has signed a bill designed to speed up the environmental permit applications process for businesses and local governments.
The new law builds on one passed last year and directs the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources to act on any permit application within 150 days of submission.
Previously, an application had to be "substantially completed" for consideration. After a signing ceremony Monday, Dayton described the bill as a great example of bipartisan accord.
"We were engaged early enough in the process that it wasn't just, 'Here's the bill, take it or leave it.' It was 'let's work on this together,' and it was give and take," said Dayton. "The senators and representatives were just really outstanding in their willingness to engage with us and have it be a two-way dialogue."
The new law also changes the permit cycle for feedlots from five years to 10 years.
"We think a 10-year cycle fits the flow of that business better, fits the capital flow, fits kind of the business-development flow for most of the feedlots," said MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen. "It keeps in place the requirements that people stay in compliance with their permits, but then also if they're proposing changes, they have to come back through the permitting process, even when it's within that 10-year window."
The measure builds on a permit streamlining bill passed last year. Aasen said under the new rules, state agencies might be able to trim three to five months from the environmental review process.
(TwinWest supported continued efforts this session to streamline environmental permitting, saving businesses time and money to help expedite important projects across the State of Minnesota.)
The TwinWest Chamber of commerce urges legislators' support of HF1479 (Ways and Means) and SF1199 (Finance).
We support. First, the bill would change the prevailing wage calculation from the “mode” to the “mean” wage. The mode tends to be a more costly way for taxpayers to finance state-funded projects. A fairer calculation is using the mean, or average, rate of all the wages surveyed. Second, it would change the overtime threshold to being solely 40 hours in a week. Existing law triggers overtime if employees work either over eight hours per day or 40 hours per week
From TwinWest’s 2012 Business Agenda – Position Statement on Prevailing Wage:
Why is the prevailing wage issue important to Minnesota businesses?
Prevailing wage law mandates that building trade workers bidding for tax-funded county, state and in some rare cases, city, construction projects be paid the ―prevailing wage‖ within the area. The prevailing wage is defined as the most common wage in the area. Currently, Minnesota uses the modal method to calculate the prevailing wage. Changing Minnesota's formula to its federal counterpart will enhance competition on state financed construction projects and thereby save taxpayers money. Minnesota is one of 33 states with a prevailing wage law. Of the states without a prevailing wage law, ten repealed their law between 1979 and 1995.
Minnesota’s modal method of determining prevailing wage for public construction projects is used only in a handful of other states. This method, arguably resulting in the highest wage determination compared to other methods used today, simply drives up the cost of construction, resulting in higher taxes and reduced construction activity. Those deriving income from the construction of public projects—labor, suppliers, managers and others—are subsidized by income and sales taxpayers who fund interest payments on general obligation bonds supporting these projects.
Reforming the prevailing wage law should reduce costs of other state funded construction projects, benefiting employers along with all taxpayers. In fact, a 2005 Minnesota Taxpayer’s Association study determined Minnesota would have experienced estimated savings of $125 to $175 million, or 7.4 percent to 10 percent of total project costs if the state used the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) median wage rates to determine prevailing wage.
How should Minnesota’s prevailing wage laws be changed in order to reflect true market conditions, ensuring that taxpayers receive the greatest value for their investment?
- Prevailing wage laws and project agreement requirements inhibit competition and should be eliminated. We are opposed to the creation of new prevailing wage or living wage mandates at the city level. Competition among providers of construction services for government contracts should be encouraged to ensure the most economical use of scarce taxpayer resources.
- Existing prevailing wage laws should be modified to utilize a more competitive method such as using the DEED survey for median wages as an alternative definition of prevailing wage for public construction projects in Minnesota.
- The provision from education funding which mandates prevailing wage contracts for public school construction should be removed.
Southwest Light Rail
In partnership with the Minneapolis and Saint Paul chambers of commerce, TwinWest actively participates in the Southwest Transit Alliance, advocating for the Southwest Light Rail transit line.
See the latest project updates on the Southwest Transit Alliance website at www.swtalliance.com.