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Minnesota small-business owners celebrate swipe-fee vote

WASHINGTON — A coalition of small business owners rallied in Washington today to celebrate the defeat of legislation that would delay swipe-fee reform.

Banks and credit unions have opposed swipe-fee reform, saying it will be painful to their operations and cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in lost profits. Such a dramatic loss will lead to increased bank fees to compensate, they say.

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But the Senate voted down the legislation Wednesday (the vote was 54-45 in favor of the amendment, but it required 60 votes to pass). Both Minnesota senators voted against it.

“It is proof that main street USA can still beat Wall Street,” said Channing Smith, the owner of The Corner Store in Inver Grove Heights. “It gives any business out there encouragement to know that there is a better tomorrow ahead for them.”

“Everybody wins because it’s money back into the economy,” said Ted Brausen, owner of Brausen Auto in Roseville and Blaine. “It’s been a long time since somebody has taken care of small business.”

Dennis Lane, a Massachusetts 7-Eleven franchisee and the national spokesman of the Reform Swipe Fees NOW coalition of small businesses, said the vote was a message that the government “bailed the banking industry out in 2009 and we are not going to bail them out again.”

But he warned that the businesses that stand to benefit the most from this reform — small businesses for which the swipe fee has become their second-largest business expense — need to be responsible with the savings it provides.

“We cannot put the money in our pockets and run,” he said. “We can’t take a pay raise. We need to reinvest that money in our communities by hiring more people, by lowering our prices. We need to do the right thing.”

Smith, whose business is across the street from a high school, said he might use the savings to sponsor youth sports teams or clubs, or to increase the salaries of his part-time employees.

“For some people it’s survival, for some people it’s hiring more help, but it’s certainly a lot of money back into the economy to help small business and their customers,” Brausen said.

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