The next time your right-wing family member or former high school classmate posts a status update or tweet about how taxing the rich or increasing workers' wages kills jobs and makes businesses leave the state, I want you to send them this article.
When he took office in January of 2011, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton inherited a$6.2 billion budget deficit and a 7 percent unemployment rate from his predecessor, Tim Pawlenty, the soon-forgotten Republican candidate for the presidency who called himself Minnesota's first true fiscally-conservative governor in modern history. Pawlenty prided himself on never raising state taxes -- the most he ever did to generate new revenue was increase the tax on cigarettes by 75 cents a pack. Between 2003 and late 2010, when Pawlenty was at the head of Minnesota's state government,he managed to add only 6,200 more jobs.
During his first four years in office, Gov. Dayton raised the state income tax from 7.85 to 9.85 percent on individuals earning over $150,000, and on couples earning over $250,000 when filing jointly -- a tax increase of $2.1 billion. He's also agreed to raise Minnesota's minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2018, and passed a state lawguaranteeing equal pay for women. Republicans like state representative Mark Uglemwarned against Gov. Dayton's tax increases, saying, "The job creators, the big corporations, the small corporations, they will leave. It's all dollars and sense to them." The conservative friend or family member you shared this article with would probably say the same if their governor tried something like this. But like Uglem, they would be proven wrong.
Gov. Dayton didn't accomplish all of these reforms by shrewdly manipulating people -- this article describes Dayton's astonishing lack of charisma and articulateness. He isn't a class warrior driven by a desire to get back at the 1 percent -- Dayton is a billionaire heir to the Target fortune. It wasn't just a majority in the legislature that forced him to do it -- Dayton had to work with a Republican-controlled legislature for his first two years in office. And unlike his Republican neighbor to the east, Gov. Dayton didn't assert his will over an unwilling populace by creating obstacles between the people and the vote -- Dayton actually created an online voter registration system, making it easier than ever for people to register to vote.
The reason Gov. Dayton was able to radically transform Minnesota's economy into one of the best in the nation is simple arithmetic. Raising taxes on those who can afford to pay more will turn a deficit into a surplus. Raising the minimum wage will increase the median income. And in a state where education is a budget priority and economic growth is one of the highest in the nation, it only makes sense that more businesses would stay.
It's official -- trickle-down economics is bunk. Minnesota has proven it once and for all. If you believe otherwise, you are wrong.