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Dayton’s Democratic Policies Deliver for Minnesota; Walker’s Republican Policies Weigh Down Wisconsin

Governor Mark Dayton, Minnesota, and Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin
Governor Mark Dayton, Minnesota, and Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is not running for President (and that’s o.k.—we’ve got Bernie, and that’s plenty for me!). But it would be fun and instructive to pit the Minnesota Democrat against his Wisconsin counterpart Scott Walker, who is seeking the Republican Presidential nomination. What have their parties’ policies done for their states?

Dayton and Walker both took office on January 3, 2011. Both tackled their state’s fiscal and economic problems with divergent policy responses that seem to epitomize their parties’ priorities. Democrat Dayton raised taxes on the rich, targeted tax cuts on the working class, and raised the minimum wage. Republican Scott Walker cut taxes on the rich and cut spending on public education and working-class benefits.

As those policies have had time to work, numerous writers have noticed that Minnesota is beating Wisconcin. Madison advocate Jimmy Anderson saw his state’s economy declining in October 2014:

The results have been lackluster at best. Wisconsin job growth has ranked at or near the bottom of the Midwest, personal income growth has been last in the Midwest and 44th nationally, and the budget is in shambles.

…The truth is we are falling behind. Our transportation budget has a $750 million hole in it, our healthcare budget is $760 million in the red, and that’s all on top of a $1.8 billion general budget deficit. Add it up and Walker has essentially taken a balanced budget and turned it into a deficit nearly as large as the one created by the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression [Jimmy Anderson, “Scott Walker Has Failed Wisconsin, and Minnesota Is the Proof,” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Purple Wisconsin, 2014.10.22].

…while Minnesota is chugging along quite healthily:

In fact, during Walker’s tenure, Minnesota has blown Wisconsin out of the water when it comes to job growth. From March 2011 to March 2014, Minnesota has created 20,000 more jobs than Wisconsin. And the gap is widening even faster with Minnesota creating 14,000 more jobs than Wisconsin since only July of this year. Minnesota’s unemployment rate, at 4.5%, is actually lower than it was before the recession and is currently a full point lower than Wisconsin’s.

And it’s not only jobs; the numbers also show that Minnesota outpaces Wisconsin when it comes to wages and personal income growth. Just looking at manufacturing jobs, the most recent numbers show Minnesotans making $600 more per month, with wage growth over the past year more than doubling Wisconsin’s [Anderson, 2014.10.22].

While Walker has to distract voters with fears of ISIS, Dayton gets to use his investment to make Minnesota better:

While Walker spends time running for president and making ill-advised comparisons between fighting organized labor and battling the Islamic State group, Dayton is busy thinking about how to invest in the ordinary people who make up Minnesota’s economy.

Dayton began his second term in January and is already gunning to take advantage of his budget surplus. His new budget plan aims to boost spending on education from kindergarten through college, and he’s angling to invest in public transit, paid sick time for workers and child care tax credits for middle-class families, according to Mother Jones. History suggests the investments will pay off [Zeeshan Aleem, “2 Years After Raising Taxes on the Rich, Here’s the Hellscape Minnesota Has Become,” Policy.Mic, 2015.03.02].

Wisconsin had lower income taxes than Minnesota before 2011; Walker’s and Dayton’s divergent policies have increased the difference. But Wisconsin still relies heavily on property tax, just like South Dakota. And thanks to that property tax, most Wisconsinites are paying a greater share of their income to Madison than they would if they lived in Minnesota.

And you know, Dayton isn’t even beating up Minnesota’s rich that badly to make these good things happen. Joe Loveland of Minnesota’s Wry Wing Politics produces this remarkable graph of state and local tax burdens on each decile of Minnesota’s taxpayers in 2012 and 2017:

Joe Loveland, "About That 'Soaking' of Minnesota's Rich," Wry Wing Politics, 2015.08.26
Joe Loveland, “About That ‘Soaking’ of Minnesota’s Rich,” Wry Wing Politics, 2015.08.26

Minnesota’s top 10% are the only decile seeing an uptick in their total state and local tax burden (and remember, they are the group best positioned to take advantage of deducting state and local taxes from their federal income tax). But even their whisker-bigger burden will remain a couple whiskers lower than most other groups. And notice that Minnesota’s bottom 10% will still bear more than double the burden of all other Minnesotans, rich and middle.

The point here is that Dayton isn’t squeezing his fellow millionaires all that hard, probably not hard enough to make them flee Walker’s tax-cutting Wisconsin or no-income-tax South Dakota, but just enough to boost Minnesota’s budget and economy. Dayton’s Democratic policies leave the rich content, while benefiting everyone else.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, Walker’s Republican policies do the opposite: the rich cheer paying less income tax, but the fiscal impacts drag all of Wisconsin down.

Dayton’s not running for President, but voters, you have to ask: would you like a Democrat to do for America what Dayton’s policies have done for Minnesota, or would you like a Republican like Walker to throw the same gum in the policy works that are dragging Wisconsin down?


  1. mike from iowa 2015-08-30 18:09

    In both cases, each styate’s plan works as designed. Especially Walker’s. He designed a fauxknee balanced budget by borrowing billions and refinancing Wisconsin’s debt clear into the future. He also cut korporate taxes and created a supposed deficit that forced him to establish his hard line of union busting,collective bargaining removal policies. His economic development plan,which he himself was the head of,gave campaign contributors millions of state dollars and didn’t require requisite job creation.

    Dayton,otoh,is a typical tax and spend,fiscally responsible liberal doing what is best for the state,not just his buds.

  2. Rorschach 2015-08-30 19:27

    Dayton has turned out to be a great governor in the progressive Minnesota tradition. Jerry Brown is doing a pretty good job in California too. Man, I wish Jerry Brown was 15 years younger so he could run for President.

  3. larry kurtz 2015-08-30 19:33

    Imagine John Thune resigning the Senate to become South Dakota’s governor.

  4. MOSES 2015-08-30 21:22

    Larry never happen not enough cameras for Photo op but their would be many basketball games for photo op to attend.

  5. Don Coyote 2015-08-30 21:23

    @ Larry Kurtz: Dayton didn’t resign, he picked up his bat and ball and slithered home. He was looking at a 43% approval rate, he crabbed he didn’t have any power in a Republican controlled Senate and less in his own caucus because of his lack of seniority and had been named by Times as one of the worst Senators in Congress.,8599,1183984,00.html

    In his gubernatorial races he barely managed a measly 43% in his first race. If not for a a solid third party effort in 2010 he’d never been elected.

  6. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-08-30 21:29

    MN would be doing even better but the Republican controlled house wants a more Walkeresque economy. Dayton has had to fight them since 2014, when they achieved that majority. The Republicans courted rural MN for votes, and succeeded based on big promises to those folks. Those are the people who are noticing that those promises are coming up cold.

    Liberal principles are great for the country but the oligarchs don’t like real capitalism and democracy.

  7. larry kurtz 2015-08-30 21:31

    oooo. snake eyes much, don?

  8. larry kurtz 2015-08-30 21:40

    don has kind of a stace delivery, init? you running for something, stace?

  9. larry kurtz 2015-08-30 21:41

    don’t see your stuff at Pat’s Bait and Switch, Don: is that because SDGOP hates your guts?

  10. larry kurtz 2015-08-30 21:43

    So, Pat’s black hole has made DFP the forum of choice for earth haters: what do you make of that, Charlie?

  11. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-08-30 21:48

    Don, we all knew that Dayton was not a good fit for the senate. He didn’t do well and gave himself an F. When he began his first term as governor, there was some doubt about his ability to do the job. I was one of the doubters, although Dayton was clearly a better choice than his Republican opponent.

    Dayton blossomed as governor. It clearly suited his temperament and skills. He’s been outstanding and assessments after he’s done will probably rank him high among MN governors.

  12. larry kurtz 2015-08-30 21:53

    Tike Mike Rounds has exhibited some reticence about being a fish out of vodka.

  13. Donald Pay 2015-08-30 21:53

    Walker said his self-described “bold reforms” enacted in 2011 would create a balanced budget and lower property taxes. Well, they did for about one year, and then the economic consequences of his “reforms” started to hit, resulting in loss of economic activity and a consequent reduction in income tax revenue. All the estimates of how much money would come rushing into the state as a result of tax cuts (you know, supply side economics) were all bogus.

    His “bold reforms” ended up wrecking the economy in Wisconsin, especially for folks out of Madison. In Madison, we used local government to undo as much of Walker’s damage as we could, resulting in an economy that isn’t too bad. Now, of course, the Republicans are trying to undo “local control,” because they want to wreck Madison’s economy, too.

    From 2012 forward Walker’s administration has been about handing out money to crony capitalists, supposedly to what the Republicans like to call “job creators.” The problem is there are lots of examples of these “job creators” cashing checks, then shipping jobs out of state. His “bold reform” of our economic development agency is mired in corruption and incompetence. They didn’t track a lot of the “loans” they handed out.

    This year Walker proposed a budget that was so bad that it was junked in large chunks by the Republican majority in the Legislature. This repeats a Walker habit that developed in Milwaukee County: propose a completely ridiculous budget filled with ALEC and Koch Brothers wish list items, collect campaign checks from the right wing sugar daddies, then let someone else (County Supervisors or Legislative committees) write the real budget. If you elect him President, he’ll do the same thing. He’s a complete whore and an incompetent administrator.

  14. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-08-30 22:06

    “He’s a complete whore and an incompetent administrator.”

    Don that’s exactly what I’ve heard from my Wisconsin friends. Walker and his Republican pals really resent Madison and Dane County because it’s the home of the University, liberal, and generally more successful than Milwaukee and it’s right wing suburbs.

  15. leslie 2015-08-30 22:32

    wow, don and deb. don i feel for u if you are living in madison? how does an uneducated scott walker accomplish a nightmare like this? is this exactly what Koch types are trying to do-attack liberal universities?

    deb- how is it dayton is a great governor but would not have been a great senator?

  16. Don Coyote 2015-08-30 23:20

    While Jimmy Anderson’s year old blog engages in implying causation by using cherry picked data in painting as dire a picture of Wisconsin’s economy as possible, economics professor Noah Williams of the University of Wisconsin-Madison seems to work with a broader palette and in brighter shades. From an 05/05/15 Milwaukee Journall-Sentinel article:

    “Press reports recently have provided a misleading picture of the Wisconsin economy: These stories base their analysis on the state rankings of job and wage growth from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in which Wisconsin has slipped into 40th place or lower.

    But a look at broader data shows that the economy in Wisconsin is much healthier than these indicators suggest, and has outperformed the overall national economy.”

    Differences in performances of various state economies will occur dependent on how they were impacted by the recession and in their rebound in an uneven economic recovery. In fact much of what is currently happening is due to the normal cyclical nature of economies although at a anemic pace. State economies are complicated and subject to the vagaries of national/global forces and respond in differing fashions.

  17. leslie 2015-08-31 01:19

    no. coyote, UW madison prof marc levine’s two rejoinders are referenced in your cite, as links. debunked!

  18. Donald Pay 2015-08-31 06:38

    The recession was milder in Wisconsin because during the worst of the recession we had a Democratic governor who spent state money and took advantage of federal stimulus funding, and didn’t engage in counterproductive economic policies. Yes, Governor Doyle left office with a large structural deficit, but that had built over decades, and started under Republican Tommy Thompson. We also have a strong ag base, which did well during the recession, and innovative companies centered around Madison that did well. Few of the positives in the economy can be attributed to Scott Walker.

  19. John 2015-08-31 07:09

    Oh, oh; looks like Minnesota better build a wall to keep out Wisconsin.

  20. Rorschach 2015-08-31 08:27

    Lots of Wisconsin residents cross the border to work in the Twin City metro area. I wonder how many Minnesotans go the other way to work in Wisconsin?

  21. Lynn 2015-08-31 08:48

    Donald Pay,

    Hasn’t the Wisconsin version of DNR been basically gutted under Walker and his allies in the legislature? Frac sand mining although demand has diminished due to the a temporary oil bubble seems to be practically unlimited on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi river. That frac sand dust(silica) getting into your lungs can do some serious damage and I feel for the property owners that have to deal with the trucks, pollution, land values drop and long term environmental damage from frac sand mining.

    The Driftless Area is beautiful and Organic Valley is based there along with many organic farming untouched by big AG operations due to geography.

    Then you have a huge Iowa based CAFO proposed near Bayfield WI in the watershed of Lake Superior of all places.

  22. mike from iowa 2015-08-31 09:29

    Walker wants to build a fence along the Canadian border,too.

  23. David Newquist 2015-08-31 11:05

    Walker speaks as an accomplishment facing down “union thugs. He is speaking about the state’s teachers and public workers. Like many of his political stripe, he sees education as training people to be docile automatons for corporations, not thinking individuals. The dismantling of higher education has university chancellors scrambling to keep faculty. Rebecca Blank of UW-Madison said, “It’s taken a toll on morale,” Blank said in a recent interview. “They’re coming back, there are fewer people, there are some programs being cut. This is having a real effect on the university. On the other hand, part of my job is to say, ‘We can move forward; here’s how we do it.'”

    As some colleagues I know in Wisconsin put it, the question they must answer is what has happened to Wisconsin that it repeatedly elects Scott Walker? Why is he dismantling a university system that has been held up as a model throughout the world? If you are a scholar and researcher and teacher who wants to perform those functions, is Wisconsin a place where you can do your job? The faculty begins a new school year with grave doubts about that.

  24. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-08-31 13:46

    Leslie, I think it’s a temperament thing. Dayton has a very big heart for people who are struggling, and very good ideas for how to help them. His senatorial frustration was due to watching those good ideas repeatedly stymied for political gain. Dayton is not a politician – well, not a very good one.

    As governor Dayton could act on things he believes in, especially his first term with a Democratic Senate and House.

    Maybe a summary is that Dayton does not work and play well with right wingnuts.

    BTW, I have one big gripe about Governor Dayton: The sweet deal slimy Zygi got on the Vikings stadium. He got suckered by Zygi and by the people who said electronic pull tabs would pay for it. That was really dumb. [Slap alongside the head!]

  25. Jenny 2015-08-31 19:30

    Have you ever been to one of Dayton’s campaign thank you parties, Deb? They are fun and everything (food and drink) is paid for by Dayton.

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-01 11:40

    Donald’s point about Walker’s Milwaukee County–ALEC habit is worth underlining: like South Dakota’s Congressional delegation, Walker-style Republicans consider it their job to tickle corporate donors, get lots of money, and win elections just to hold seats that will give them publicity for their next campaign and prevent Democrats from winning power to do the hard work of governing.

  27. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-09-01 15:07

    I love that HC! Wisconsonians probably don’t find much humor in the truth revealed in those brief paragraphs.

Comments are closed.