Minnesota and Wisconsin share common roots: both were settled primarily by German and Northern European immigrants; both states engage heavily in farming; and, until recently, both shared a political culture of populist progressivism. So when their politics diverged (with the election of Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Mark Dayton in Minnesota), it created a natural experiment.
What happens when you apply dramatically different economic policies in otherwise very similar states?
These two governors aren’t simply Republican and Democrat: Walker is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Koch Brothers and espouses their brand of radical conservatism with almost religious zeal; Dayton is an unabashedly progressive Democrat. The two of them took their respective states in diametrically different directions. Walker attacked unions, cut property taxes and cut funding for education and infrastructure. Dayton raised taxes by 2.1 billion, and increased funding for primary and secondary education by $485 million, among other things.
So which state is doing better economically?
Minnesota’s Department of Revenue recently announced that the state’s budget SURPLUS has risen to $1 billion. At the same time, its unemployment rate in November was the lowest since 2001 – 3.7%. Minnesota is the fifth fastest growing state economy, with private-sector job growth exceeding pre-recession levels. Forbes rates Minnesota as the eighth best state for business.
Rhetoric may carry the day on Faux News, but on the ground, policies have real-world consequences.