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I was born in Minneapolis, graduated from the University of Minnesota and have lived in the Twin Cities essentially my entire life. So when I sold my business and took early retirement in 2017, planning to get away from the Minnesota winters, I always thought I'd remain a resident of the state I love that had provided me so much.
This year, though, I'm moving my residency to Florida. This isn't LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach, but when I hear DFL Rep. Andy Smith claim it's a "myth" that people are fleeing Minnesota, I think an explanation of my reasoning is relevant.
Those reasons start, but don't end, with taxes. Even in the face of a massive $17 billion surplus, the Minnesota Legislature just raised my sales tax and gas tax, created a new deliveries tax and even flirted with raising my income tax. Minnesota already has the sixth-highest income tax rate in the country at 9.85%. Contrast that with Florida, which has no state income tax.
Even so, I could remain comfortable paying around 10% of my net income to Minnesota if I was confident the money would be wisely spent and the rate relatively constant. But the current trifecta of DFL control in St. Paul boasts that taxes are a "wonderful tool" to fund their new massive growth in state spending on programs like "free" college tuition, which won't be free to me.
Gov. Tim Walz has proposed an additional 4% surcharge on capital gains over $1 million. And even more ominously, Minnesota legislators are studying a new "wealth tax" on unrealized annual appreciation of assets owned by the wealthy. When DFL Sen. Ann Rest says her party seems to have "an insatiable appetite to raise taxes," I believe her.
DFL Rep. Aisha Gomez claims she is just asking the higher income people "to contribute a little more to the public good." As my total tax rate creeps toward 50%, I'd like to hear the number that will constitute "a little more" once Minnesota returns to a California-like deficit, even before paying reparations.
The second, and even more important reason I'm leaving Minnesota is that crime has destroyed much of what I used to enjoy in the Twin Cities. Up until a few years ago, I thought to avoid being a victim of violent crime all I needed to do was avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But today in the metro area, every place could be the wrong place at any time of every day.
A few weeks ago, a resident of bucolic St. Anthony Park was shot dead outside his home at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday. Car thefts are up 95% this year in Minneapolis, and carjackings, a crime seldom heard of before 2020, occur every week throughout the metro. At the recent Art-A-Whirl studio tour in northeast Minneapolis, a 70-year-old woman was sent to the hospital when she was randomly punched in the face as she crossed the street to go to a restaurant on a Friday evening.
Because of high crime, the downtown Minneapolis restaurants I used to enjoy are closing early or permanently. The Basilica Block Party is gone, and you couldn't pay me to attend the new Taste of Minnesota July 4th block party on Nicollet Mall after last year's July 4th mass shooting and private fireworks anarchy. Even the State Fair at night has become a risky proposition.
As Rep. Ilhan Omar asked recently, "What happens if I am killed?" But unlike her, I don't have armed security — instead, I have to rely on the police for protection. Yet Minneapolis remains more than 100 officers short of the minimum required by its charter, and the too-few applicants who do apply should be automatically rejected for bad judgment in wanting the job.
Again, contrast this with Southwest Florida, where the police ranks are full, the restaurants are open, and violent crime is still a rarity. It's a pretty easy decision to live in an area where I don't have to plan my exit from a concert as if I were leaving a Philadelphia Eagles home game wearing a Vikings jersey.
The last reason I'm leaving Minnesota is because of a lack of hope. I'm a realist, and realism tells me there's nothing more I can do to help prevent Minnesota's decline. Not only its declining public safety, but also its declining public schools, its hopelessly irrational light-rail transit system and its eroding future.
I know our current leaders won't solve these problems because they won't even acknowledge they exist. Minneapolis recently unveiled a new multimillion-dollar ad campaign to draw visitors into the city to "see what all the fuss is about" because "negative perceptions" have "overshadowed" the positive. Unfortunately for that campaign's credibility, the "fuss" on the day it was announced was about six people under the age of 18 shot in Brooklyn Center.
When Walz came to Florida this winter to speak to our Minnesota snowbird group, he asked us to be positive about Minnesota's future. Then he returned home and trashed conservatives, saying Florida is "where freedom goes to die," apparently auditioning for a potential presidential run.
In the years since I retired as a public company CEO, I've contributed to a number of candidates and organizations that claim they can help solve Minnesota's problems. Those candidates haven't won, and, given last November's election results, their future odds of winning control of Minnesota seem about zero.
And most of the advocacy organizations, while claiming to be making a difference, measure results not by tangible accomplishments but rather by the amount of money they raise and publicity they generate. Toothless lawsuits, angry Capitol protests and smug public displays of self-righteousness are ineffective for anything other than grifter fundraising. I left one organization's board after they asked major donors to write that organization into our wills.
What used to be Minnesota Nice has become Minnesota Nuts, and I'm out. I've heard from many others who are planning a similar exit to states like Tennessee and South Carolina, which should put Minnesota on pace to soon exceed the 19,400 net residents who left for other states last year.
I know I've benefited greatly from the excellent public education and wonderful career opportunities that Minnesota provided me. I can leave knowing that I've repaid the state many times over with the millions in taxes I've paid and the hundreds of jobs I've created. That reciprocal history makes it painful for me to say goodbye, but it's time to end my dysfunctional relationship with the new Minnesota.
Howard Root is the retired CEO and co-founder of Vascular Solutions, Inc., a Maple Grove-based medical device company that was sold to Teleflex in 2017.