After taking the office of Minnesota governor at the start of 2011, Mark Dayton was staring down the devastating duo of $6.2 billion in budgetary debt and an unemployment rating of 7 percent thanks to the out-of-touch actions of previous governor and presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. Despite promising to never raise state taxation, Pawlenty’s only increase to state revenue came from hiking the cigarette tax.
Dayton’s first four years saw an elevation in income tax of nearly 10 percent, accounting for just over $2 billion. Dayton will also be raising minimum wage to $9.50/hour by 2018 and legislated equal pay for women. While Republican representative like Mark Uglem will quip that Dayton’s actions will cause businesses to leave, all evidence seems to point to the contrary.
Between the years of 2011 and 2015, Dayton’s governorship was responsible for 172k jobs, more than 10 times the jobs generated during Pawlenty’s entire career as a governor. While Minnesota ranks fourth in the country for top income tax rate, it also has a 3.6 percent rate of unemployment, placing it as the fifth lowest in the country. Results from the 2012-2013 census placed Minnesota’s median income at $10K above the national average; the current day Minnesota still comes in at $8k above the national average.
By the winter of 2013, Minnesota’s private sector jobs exceeded levels only seen before the Great Recession with its economy coming in as fifth fastest-expanding among the nation. “Forbes” placed Minnesota within the top 10 states ideal for businesses. While some may wag their fingers at Dayton’s cuts to taxation, an excess of 6,000 Minnesotans filed within the top tax bracket for 2013. By January of 2015, Minnesota has maintained a $1 billion surplus in budgetary funding and Dayton pledged to put more than one-third of that surplus into public education. These sorts of facts are the reason why Gallup polls position Minnesota’s economic confidence at the top of the stack.
While some may think that Dayton managed to bring success to Minnesota through cronyism and manipulation, evidence points the primary reasons as his charisma and being well-read. Dayton has no aspirations to demolish the 1 percent; the man is an heir to the “Target” chain of department stores. Further, Dayton’s political actions were hardly partisan efforts aligned to his party; the Minnesota legislature was controlled by the Republicans for Dayton’s first two years as governor. Rather than conspire to manipulate elections by placing roadblocks to the voting box, Dayton instituted an online registration program to further expand the options for Minnesotan voters.
When looking at the evidence, Dayton’s success in reforming Minnesota’s economy comes down to simple math. Raising taxes on those that can pay more transforms a budgetary deficit into a budgetary stockpile. Raising minimum wage elevates a state’s median income. States that prioritize education in their budgets and who experience sizable growth in economic power are nothing but magnets for businesses.
At the end of the day, Reagan’s theory of “trickle down economics,” where minimally taxing the richest has a domino effect on the economic hardship of lower-tier tax brackets, has been thoroughly disproved; Minnesota’s financial and economic strides are definitive proof of that.