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Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of the Marketplace Fairness Act. I would like to thank Chairman Rockefeller. I would like to thank the two major sponsors of this bill, Senator Durbin and Senator Enzi, who have been working on this for years, and Senator Heitkamp for her longtime knowledge and leadership on this bill, as well as Senator Alexander.
I am proud to be a cosponsor of this important legislation. It has been very important for years for businesses in Minnesota, both big and small, and across the country, giving them the certainty they need. That is what this bill will do so they can succeed and grow.
I am encouraged to see the Senate coming together in a bipartisan way to create a level playing field for our businesses on Main Street to compete. That is all they want to do. They just want an even playing field to compete. The bipartisan support for the Marketplace Fairness Act is a reminder that when we put politics aside we can get things done, something the Presiding Officer from the State of West Virginia knows about very much.
During the budget debate, 75 Senators came together and we succeeded in passing an amendment that I cosponsored to the budget resolution that helped outline the broad support for a very simple idea: that all businesses need to play by the same set of rules.
When I go around my own State, as I know Chairman Rockefeller does in his, I hear from small locally owned retailers, and competitive issues are raised all the time. We have small businesses--this gives a sense of what we are talking about--places such as the Uffda Gift Shop in Red Wing, MN. I hope all of you will visit there. I have been there and did Christmas shopping there. There is Mary's Morsels, which is a bakery in Eveleth, MN, on the Iron Range, northern Minnesota, where my dad grew up; Sleepy Eye Floral--I suggest all of you go to Sleepy Eye, MN, at some point in your life. You can then go and buy some flowers at Sleepy Eye Floral. You will find big support for this legislation, the Marketplace Fairness Act.
In my time in the Senate I have been committed to a competitive agenda that promotes long-term economic growth. Part of that agenda includes not only bringing our debt down in a balanced way, promoting exports, making sure that our workforce is trained for the jobs of today, but it also means an even playing field and making sure that all businesses can compete.
That is what America has been built on. I know our businesses in Minnesota want that level playing field. It is time we give it to them. That is exactly what this bill does. It allows brick-and-mortar retailers the ability to compete against out-of-State Internet retailers. States are currently unable to require out-of-State or online-only retailers to collect sales tax. It puts local mom-and-pop shops at a significant disadvantage.
Not only that but this loophole--by the way, this is not about adding a tax. That is why we have such strong bipartisan support. It is only about allowing those taxes to be collected, something most people support. I have to tell you that because these taxes are not being collected, it creates a loophole that is literally draining billions of dollars in lost revenue from State and local governments at a time when they need it for police officers, they need it for firefighters, and when they need it for our schools.
Some $23 billion last year alone was lost because these laws were not being enforced in an even way. My State lost about $394 million in 2011 from out-of-State sales taxes that are legally due but not collected. This lost revenue translated into over 7 percent of Minnesota's general sales tax liability in 2011.
In our State, local brick-and-mortar retailers assess sales tax at a rate of 6.875 percent, while their online competitors typically assess no sales tax. That is simply not right. When this happens, city and State governments either have to find revenue from other sources, such as raising taxes, or they must cut critical services.
Let's also be clear about what the legislation that Senator Heitkamp has so intelligently pointed out--let's be clear about what the legislation does and does not do. It does not create any taxes or increase existing taxes. It simply gives States the ability to enforce their own sales and use tax laws, which reduces the need to raise taxes.
It also relieves customers of the legal obligation to report to State tax departments the sales taxes they owe. One of the longstanding principles of tax fairness is that taxpayers who engage in similar economic transactions should face the same tax consequences.
Today, that is simply not the case. Minnesota is home to these thriving small businesses, but also to many large businesses that are in retail, such as Target and Best Buy. I have seen with my own eyes people go into Best Buy, spend half an hour with a very eager salesperson who is helping them in any way, looking at dozens of TVs, and then go back outside the store and buy it on the Internet.
That is not how things should work. We have to have fairness. That is why this bill is called the Marketplace Fairness Act. This bill has such strong support from business, such strong support in this Chamber. I am very excited about what is going on. We have been having this debate for over 10 years now. It is one of the first things I heard about when I got to the Senate 6 years ago. It is long past time to get this done.
I yield the floor.
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