Business leaders and alumni of the Carlson School of Management had a break from the usual CEO speakers at yesterday’s 1st Tuesday Speaker Series event.
Gov. Mark Dayton spoke to event attendees in the McNamara Alumni Center, discussing the state’s fiscal situation and his tax and budget proposals.
“I was curious to see how he was going to address the business community,” said attendee Stephen Horsfield, executive director of Simpson Housing Services. “I was interested to see how he was going to pitch things.”
For Dominick Grande, a University law student and Carlson alumnus, this was the only 1st Tuesday event he had attended that had a political rather than a business focus.
Although there is a perception that Minnesota is a state of high taxes and spending, Dayton argued spending and taxation are falling relative to other states, Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said in an email.
Nationwide, Minnesota ranks right in the middle of states in terms of total government spending for 2009-10, according to data in Dayton’s presentation.
During that same timeframe, Minnesota dropped from the 14th- to 15th-highest in taxes collected in relation to other states, according to Dayton’s data.
After his presentation, the governor responded to audience questions.
One attendee asked how Dayton would respond to a suggested decrease in welfare spending and increase in higher education spending.
Minnesota spends more on public welfare and less on higher education in relation to other states. According to Dayton’s data, Minnesota ranked seventh in public welfare spending in both 2009 and 2010 but ranked about 30th in higher education spending.
Dayton said he’d rather not think of it as an either-or situation.
Cuts to welfare, he said, have happened across the country and can have adverse effects.
“I know the cost of those cuts in terms of people’s lives,” he said. “I’m proud of Minnesota for having a commitment to those less fortunate.”
Another attendee questioned some of Dayton’s proposed taxes, saying small businesses would be hit severely.
The governor said he had heard a “TCF Stadium full” of concerns about the business-to-business tax, but said he felt the proposed taxes were necessary.
“We need the money,” he said, adding that it has to come from somewhere.
Horsfield said he had heard many concerns regarding the business-to-business tax recently but was encouraged by the governor’s response.
The event’s planners were pleased with the turnout, said Scott Persons, Carlson director of institutional advancement. The event sold out at 440 seats, and in spite of the snow, 375 attended, he said.