Gazelka: MN needs ‘open doors’ for business
MARSHALL — Minnesota businesspeople are feeling pressure, especially when it comes to labor shortages and the need to compete with businesses in neighboring states, Paul Gazelka said.
As he’s been on the campaign trail, some key questions have emerged, he said.
“How do we make these businesses more successful? How do we make sure they stay in Minnesota and grow instead of going to South Dakota or other places? How do we help them them help their communities? That’s really the takeaway for me,” Gazelka said.
Gazelka, the former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader, announced he was running for governor in September. Gazelka made a stop in Marshall on Tuesday, visiting local businesses and True Light Christian School before holding a meet-and-greet event at the Landmark Mercantile.
In an interview with local media before the meet-and-greet, Gazelka said Minnesota businesspeople are looking for a governor who will work with them.
“I want to make sure that businesses in Minnesota know that we want the doors open to them,” he said. Gazelka said Minnesota’s current tax policies aren’t conducive to business, and regulations are excessive compared to other states.
“They can simply go to another state and it’s a lot quicker, and there’s less that they have to do. So that’s what they’re looking for,” he said. “They just want to be able to work with their government to make sure that it works. They’re frustrated when government gets in the way.”
Minnesota’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic — with businesses facing state-mandated shutdowns and penalties — didn’t help matters, Gazelka said.
“It’s worse than it’s ever been right now. COVID was just like the last nail in the coffin for some of these groups to leave,” he said. “It was difficult before that with regulations and taxation, but I think now in addition to that we have a major workforce shortage.”
Gazelka said there were several factors building up to a workforce shortage in Minnesota, inlcuding young college graduates not staying in the state, taxes on social security income driving seniors away, and Minnesota’s welfare benefits being better than in surrounding states. Mandating certain industries to vaccinate employees for COVID-19 would also drive workers away, he said.
“Without a doubt the virus is serious,” Gazelka said. He encouraged compassion for people who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.
“Without a doubt we need to be caring about the people who have actually had to go through this,” he said. “But as far as forcing people to be vaccinated, I think that’s a mistake.”
In addition to the economy, Gazelka said key issues for him include supporting public safety and education. Families want more choices for their children’s education, Gazelka said.
Gazelka also commented on the need for child care options in greater Minnesota. Child care is another area where regulation poses barriers to people getting needed services, he said.
“The day care crisis is part government, in that we’ve over-regulated that industry so that an individual mom or dad who wants to do day care in the home, it’s extremely difficult to do that,” he said. More options were needed for in-home care.
Rather than turning to voluntary pre-kindergarten at Minnesota school districts, Gazelka said, “I would rather have the dollars follow the parents with the kids, and let them choose where they want to send their kids for daycare. Another thing that we could do is incentivize businesses to have day care.”
Currently, Gazelka is one of six Republican candidates running for governor. He noted he was one of the last of that group to throw his hat in the ring.
“I wanted to make sure we passed a budget without raising taxes before I entered in,” he said.
Gazelka said his past legislative experience was an asset for him as a candidate.
“I can’t imagine trying to pass a $50 billion budget when you’ve never looked at anything of that nature,” Gazelka said. “I’ve done three of them. That’s a skill set that I’ve learned.”
In addition, he said he has experience in building teams of legislators to accomplish a task.
“I know how to bring people together. I know how to collaborate,” he said.