Today, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker visits Minneapolis to speak at a local GOP fundraising dinner. But while his visit may be just political in nature, I sure hope the governor takes a few pointers on how a state’s economy can and should be run.
In 2010, both Wisconsin and Minnesota faced similar budget woes and a worrisome economic future amid a national recession. Both are also Midwest states, deeply invested in manufacturing and agricultural economic drivers. The only difference was that Minnesotans elected DFL Gov. Mark Dayton to turn Minnesota around, while Wisconsinites chose Scott Walker to lead their state’s recovery.
Only one governor was successful.
In Minnesota, Dayton turned a $5 billion budget deficit into a more than $1 billion budget surplus in just one term. By raising taxes on the wealthiest earners, Minnesota is now in a position to invest more resources into the state’s schools and infrastructure.
In Wisconsin, Walker was unable to take his state out of the red and is still facing a $2 billion budget deficit. Walker made the decision to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, while slashing programs and refusing investments at the expense of middle-class families and Wisconsin’s financial well-being.
In Minnesota, Dayton has moved forward Democratic policies like increasing the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid and investing in the middle class, and now we are seeing one of the most business-friendly states in the country. Just this year, Forbes ranked Minnesota as the ninth best state for business, seventh in economic climate and second in quality of life.
In Wisconsin, Walker opposed a minimum-wage increase and equal-pay legislation, rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid, and attacked Wisconsin workers with right-to-work and anti-collective-bargaining policies. As a result, the cost of doing business in Wisconsin is higher than the national average, and median household income is thousands less than in Minnesota.
The facts are clear: Walker and the Republican trickle-down economic policies have made it practically impossible for Wisconsin to recover from the recession, and the state consistently sits at the bottom of the region in private-sector job growth.
But I don’t fault Wisconsinites for electing Walker, who in turn destroyed their state’s economy.
Instead, I fault Walker for deceiving his constituents, deeply polarizing the state and using previous elections just to catapult himself into a presidential run.
The reality is, Walker can travel around Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, but his failed tenure as governor will forever be his shadow.
So please, Gov. Walker, while you are in Minnesota today, take note of a thriving economy. Our neighbors to the east could use the help.
R.T. Rybak is a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a former mayor of Minneapolis.