This profile of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota highlights how the passage of a number of legislative initiatives put forth by Democrats in that state have led to more positive results than the Republican policies enacted here in Wisconsin.
Over the past several years, Minnesota has become a testing ground for a litany of policies Democrats hope to enact nationally: legalizing same-sex marriage, making it easier to vote, boosting primary education spending, instituting all-day kindergarten, expanding unionization, freezing college tuition, increasing the minimum wage, and passing new laws requiring equal pay for women. To pay for it all, Dayton pushed a sharp increase on taxes for the top 2 percent—one of the largest hikes in state history. Republicans went berserk, warning that businesses would flee the state and take jobs with them.
The disaster Dayton’s GOP rivals predicted never happened. Two years after the tax hike, Minnesota’s economy is booming. The state added 172,000 jobs during Dayton’s first four years in office. Its 3.6 percent unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country (Wisconsin’s is 5.2 percent), and the Twin Cities have the lowest unemployment rate of any major metropolitan area. Under Dayton, Minnesota has consistently been in the top tier of states for GDP growth. Median incomes are $8,000 higher than the national average. In 2014, Minnesota led the nation in economic confidence, according to Gallup.
Minnesota has even pulled ahead of Walker’s Wisconsin, leapfrogging its neighbor to the east on measure after measure. “In a whole number of ways, we’re very, very similar,” Bakk, the DFL Senate leader, says of the two states. “But politically, we have taken just totally different paths in the road.”