In 2010, the neighboring states of Minnesota and Wisconsin both elected a new Governor, each of which has governed for the last 8 years.
Minnesota elected Democrat Mark Dayton, and Wisconsin elected Republican Scott Walker. These two states are both upper Midwestern states with one large metropolitan area, Minneapolis/St Paul in Minnesota and Milwaukee in Wisconsin. They both have rural areas that specialize in farming, forestry, and mining. They are not exactly the same, Wisconsin is known more for its dairy industry, Minneapolis/St Paul is a larger metro area than Milwaukee, but they are similar enough that they can be used for basic comparison purposes.
So, what has each of these Governor’s done policy-wise since being elected?
Democrat Mark Dayton pushed through a $2.1 billion tax increase (mostly on the wealthy), created free, statewide, all-day kindergarten, created a $1.9 billion dollar rainy day reserve for the State’s budget, increased education funding, added more school counselors and teachers, upgraded water treatment centers, expanded Medicaid, and secured funding for expansions of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and the Mall of America in Minneapolis.
Republican Scott Walker cut taxes for the wealthy and for businesses, took union organizing privileges away from teachers, cut benefits for teachers, passed union busting right-to-work legislation for the private sector, reduced K-12 education funding, reduced funding to the State’s university system, refused Medicaid expansion, expanded the use of taxpayer money to be used for vouchers for private schools, and handed out numerous grants and tax credits to private businesses.
To say that these two Governors took opposite tracks would be an understatement.
So, let’s see how it turned out:
Total Non-Farm Job Growth since 2010:
Private Sector Job Growth since 2010:
Length of time to return to pre-recession Unemployment Rates:
Minnesota: 32 months
Wisconsin: 47 months
Drop in Long-Term Unemployed:
Overall Wage Growth:
Bottom 10% of earner’s Wage Growth:
11-20% of earner’s Wage Growth:
Median Household Income Growth:
Decrease in number of people without Health Insurance:
And these numbers don’t fully account yet for the disparities in education quality that have surely taken hold due to the divergent paths of education funding in each State, nor do they fully account for the differences in infrastructure funding that have occurred due to the differences in the healthiness of each State’s budget (Minnesota has a 4.4% debt to GDP ratio, Wisconsin has a 7.6% debt to GDP ratio, source: State Debt Ranking Percent GDP)
So, which policy track has been more successful? Increasing taxes on the rich and investing in education, health care and infrastructure? Or decreasing taxes on the rich and cutting funding to education, health care and infrastructure?
You be the judge.