A push for greater MN internships

Businesses would receive tax credits for giving students internships.

Alexi Gusso

Policymakers included a bill aimed at increasing student internships outside the metro area in the Senate omnibus tax bill, which passed a committee Wednesday.

The bill, introduced several times in the past by members of both parties, would give tax breaks to businesses in greater Minnesota that hire and mentor student interns.

The proposal failed to get past the House higher education committee earlier in the session but was moved to the Senate tax committee.

Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, who chairs the Senate Committee on Taxes, included the program in his omnibus tax bill, which will likely be voted on by the full Senate soon.

The internship program has received bipartisan support in both houses, especially from rural legislators.

Advocates have pushed for the program for two years.

Mike Miller, a lobbyist for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, said the proposal is popular, but it’s unclear if the Legislature has the money to fund it.

“No one’s ever doubted the power this program could have,” Miller said. “It’s just a matter of finding the money for the tax credit.”

Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, penned the current version of the bill. In a hearing earlier this month, Eken said the bill is aimed at keeping more young people in our communities and spurring economic growth in greater Minnesota.

Miller said after the economic downturn in 2008, student internships dropped across the state, especially in cities outside the metro area. Since then, Miller said, students have been drawn to Twin Cities internships.

“They don’t feel there are job opportunities in greater Minnesota,” Miller said.

Under the bill, students could only take internships for class credit and that are related to their course of study.

Students also aren’t eligible for an internship if their academic program requires them to take one.

For hiring an intern, businesses would receive a tax credit of 40 percent of a student’s salary.

Lawmakers have said the measure was unsuccessful in previous years because it was incorporated in omnibus bills that had other measures Gov. Mark Dayton didn’t support.