Article by: Columnist Neal St. Anthony
Published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on February 12, 2012 at 6:22 p.m.
Mild-mannered Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, described by Republican and Democratic predecessors as a good listener, has put the teeth back into the agency.
Rothman, a business lawyer by trade, was hired by Gov. Mark Dayton a year ago with a mandate to step up consumer protection, enforcement and financial literacy initiatives at an agency that was perceived as less-than-aggressive under Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Since Rothman took over, several deputies who oversaw insurance, enforcement and banking have retired or left.
Former Commerce Commissioner Glenn Wilson, a career mortgage banker, has disputed that the agency was slow to respond to the mortgage meltdown that brought the nation's economy to its knees in 2008. Regardless, the pace of investigations, enforcement actions and the agency's profile have picked up under Rothman.
"I sensed an opportunity to reorganize and emphasize some things that could be done better," said Rothman. "We're responsible for protecting the public. We also want to make sure that business has an opportunity to succeed. There's a balance there. There are some bad actors out there. But the overwhelming number of Minnesota companies, 99 percent, are good citizens."
Op/Ed by Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue Myron Frans
Published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on February 9, 2012 at 5:56 p.m.
By most conventional measures of economic prosperity, Minnesota is outperforming other states. Yet a recent Pioneer Press editorial, promoting the findings of a flawed tax index, says otherwise - hardly the best way to position our state for more growth.
First, the facts: Minnesota has the nation's 10th-highest per-capita personal income, 7th-lowest unemployment rate, 13th-lowest business failure rate, and 8th-lowest poverty rate. We have regained more than 33 percent of jobs lost in the recession (compared with 25 percent nationwide). In 2011, total wages in the state increased four times as much as in the rest of the country.
Despite the economic reality in the state, the Tax Foundation's "State Business Tax Climate Index" claims that Minnesota is bad for business ("Minnesota takes a licking on tax climate," Feb. 7). This is misleading, and biased.
The index is focused only on tax rates, without documenting the real-world effects or considering what Minnesotans and businesses in the state actually pay. For example:
It knocks Minnesota for having a sales tax on manufacturing equipment, but does not acknowledge that taxpayers receive tax credits (refunds) that cover these costs.
It criticizes Minnesota's research and development credit and Angel Investment Credit, even though they are important priorities for businesses in the state.
It is biased against states with multiple income tax brackets, even though there is no evidence that multiple brackets are a detriment to business growth.
The index ignores the benefits provided by public investment when assessing our business climate - yet it is those public investments that draw employers to Minnesota. As state economist Tom Stinson has noted, our taxes have bought something for businesses - like productive workers, research, high-quality transportation and other business services.
Following through on the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Financial Literacy Action Plan released last October, Commissioner Mike Rothman invited the heads of nine state agencies to the Department for a first of its kind Interagency Work Group on Financial Literacy at 3:00pm this afternoon. Agencies invited to participate in the work group have existing programs, outreach efforts, or other interests in financial literacy.
The goal of today’s meeting is twofold: 1) to increase communication and collaboration across the administration in order to improve or expand existing financial literacy programs; and 2) identify new ways an administration-wide partnership may help ensure Minnesotans from Kindergarten to retirement have the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to achieve financial security.
“This is an unprecedented coalition that demonstrates this administration’s strong commitment to financial literacy and consumer education,” said Commissioner Rothman. “With an economy in recovery, and an increasingly complex marketplace, countless Minnesota families are facing real and difficult financial challenges. It has never been more important to work together across agencies to strengthen the systems that educate and support knowledgeable, financially secure Minnesota consumers. Working together in strong partnership, this coalition can make a big difference in the lives and finances of Minnesotans.”
Gov. Mark Dayton and his commissioners are fanning out across Minnesota.
Education, revenue, pollution control and agency heads are following their boss' lead by hitting the road to take the pulse of the people.
"I think it makes a better relationship between Minnesota citizens and their government," Dayton said. It is essential, he said, for administration officials to "get out from behind the desk and the office and really see firsthand what's going on there in the real world and get the dialogue going. I really encourage commissioners to do that. I am very proud of them for doing so."
As a candidate, Dayton toured Minnesota's 87 counties in 87 days, covering 9,000 miles in less than three months. At the tour's conclusion, he bragged that he'd probably been to more counties more often, "than all the other candidates combined."
Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and MDE staff will embark on a statewide tour to present information about Minnesota’s waiver request and plans for a new accountability system that will more accurately and fairly measure schools progress.
“While the goals of NCLB are noble and some aspects of the law have been effective, it’s clear Minnesota can, and must do better,” said Commissioner Cassellius. “That’s why Governor Dayton has taken the lead in making Minnesota one of the first states to create an accountability system that is more responsive to the needs of our students, our schools and our state. These meetings will provide the public an opportunity to hear about Minnesota's waiver request, ask questions and offer feedback.”
The first meetings will be held in Rochester on December 7 and in St. Cloud on December 14. To read the full announcement and for more information about the waiver request, click here.
According to the release:
Today the Minnesota Department of Commerce announced that Governor Dayton appointed 15 members to the Governor's Task Force on Broadband, which will be charged with developing policies to promote the expansion of broadband access in Minnesota — including an action plan for identifying and correcting disparities in urban, rural, and suburban communities.
“For the short- and long-term success of our economy, every school, business, and consumer in Minnesota must have affordable, high-speed access to information and the online marketplace,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “That is what the work of this Task Force is all about.”
Members of the Task Force represent a balance of broadband interests, including consumers, business and residential users, educational and health care institutions, traditional telephone and cable companies, wireless providers as well as metro and rural local units of government. The Task Force was established by Executive Order 11-27.
For a list of Task Force Members, click here.
Two weeks upon returning from a trade mission to China, Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon is still feeling good about the progress made, the discussions had, and the relationships built during the weeklong trip that took place in October.
In a discussion with Politics in Minnesota published yesterday, the Lieutenant Governor shared her thoughts on important outcomes that came out of the China visit.
“Considering the many hardships facing Minnesotans in this economy, it has never been more important to empower consumers of all ages with the knowledge and resources necessary to make responsible, informed financial decisions,” said Commissioner Rothman. “The Minnesota Department of Commerce, as one of the state’s consumer advocates, has a mission-driven responsibility to contribute what resources, expertise, and services we can to this important effort.”
The 12 initiatives are the result of a collaborative Financial Literacy Roundtable conversation hosted last April by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
The steps include direct outreach to consumers, improving online tools for financial literacy, collaborating with the federal government and other state agencies, and more.