The Medical Alley Association sat down with Minnesota State Representative Sarah Anderson (R) from District 44A. In the heart of Minnesota’s Medical Alley, her district is home to many Medical Alley Association members including Circle Biologics, Covidien Vascular Therapies, Innova Medical Design, Medtronic ATS Medical and Teleflex Medical OEM. With such a strong health technology community in her district, Representative Anderson is highly attuned to the impact of tax policy on this critical industry. She sits on the Taxes, Ways and Means, Commerce, and Rules Committees.
How long have you been in office and what prompted you to run?
I have been in office for the past eight years. My predecessor (Jeff Johnson-R, currently running for Governor of Minnesota) suggested I consider running for office. I talked it over with my husband, who reminded me that I was constantly voicing my frustrations with state politics and that this was an opportunity for me to affect political change. I grew up in a politically active family, in a home that discussed politics around the supper table, followed the news closely, and instilled political awareness and service.
How do you believe our state can most effectively use tax policy to benefit our population and encourage growth?
Tax policy can be used to influence the behavior of individual citizens and can impact business decisions, too. Overall, the Minnesota tax climate is not one of the best in the nation, but I believe we can turn that around. Look at the angel tax credit; that program has been a huge success and a great way to attract new businesses to the state. In fact, a few years ago, I got to know a small Minnesota-based company with great potential for job growth and profitability. This company was being wooed by Michigan, where they eventually relocated. That moment was a wake-up call for me about what we needed to do to keep our companies in Minnesota. We often talk about Minnesota’s education advantage and our emphasis on STEM, but if we don’t have jobs here when students finish their education, we’re going to lose that talent to other states. We need to offer jobs for people to grow into.
How important do you believe the Research & Development tax credit is in spurring innovation in our state?
I was sorry to see the refundability portion of the R&D tax credit expire in May 2013, especially since it was a powerful tool for attracting businesses to the state. We’re lucky to have large biotech, medical device, pharmaceutical, etc. industries in Minnesota, but we’re in jeopardy of losing companies and becoming a mediocre state rather than an exceptional one. When the refundability portion of the R&D tax credit was eliminated, it was a huge failure for tax policy in our state. I authored a 2014 bill to reinstate refundability, which unfortunately did not make it into the final tax bill, so I will continue to advocate for this important measure in 2015.
What are some of the fiscal challenges the state faces in the near future?
The fiscal challenges in this state are increasing. In the last two years, we have increased our spending by more than 12%, which far exceeds our revenue, despite healthy revenue growth. We’re going to have some challenges addressing that differential. Although we’re not required to balance our budget like the federal government, when you have such massive spending increases, it puts us at a disadvantage when looking at good reforms.
What is one thing you want life science companies in your district to know about you?
I go door-to-door throughout my district and I meet people working at companies of all sizes in the life science and health technology industries. Their biggest concerns are my biggest concerns, too: Will my constituents have jobs? Will they have jobs here in Minnesota, allowing them to keep their families here, taking advantage of our excellent schools, etc.? My husband (who teaches high school physics) likes to see his students do well, and particularly to see them do well in Minnesota. I feel the same way about the companies in my district; I want to see them succeed here.
How can our industries be better partners with the legislature?
Be engaged. One of the most powerful examples of public engagement was the community turnout for last session’s business tax proposal hearings. We had so many people coming over two days of hearings to share how it would impact them. Although we’re aware of many of these examples, it carries more weight coming from individuals who are living with these impacts day-to-day. So I urge you to come to the capitol, send an email, make a phone call and find a way to get involved. You truly can influence change.
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Please feel free to contact me. I read all of my emails and rely on feedback from my constituents and the health technology community.
You can reach Representative Sarah Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or make a call to her office at 651-296-5511. Stay up to date on her legislative efforts by following her on twitter at @Rep_SAnderson, or visiting her websites www.house.mn/44A and www.repsarahanderson.com.