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Minnesota Milestones lagging

 The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.
With a great debate evolving at the national and state level about taxpayer investments in public services and livability of our communities, it’s good a report that measures our progress and quality of life was resurrected by the 2009 Legislature.

The Minnesota Milestone report was established by Gov. Arne Carlson in the 1990s to measure state quality of life and civic progress in four areas. The report was significant because it was developed with the help of thousands of residents who attended public meetings, wrote letters, completed surveys and help review early drafts. What resulted was a set of 19 major goals that are measured against 60 indicators of progress.

These were what Minnesotans said we should be doing, not politicians or bureaucrats.

We measured our progress in 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2002, but somehow after that there was no leadership to continue the report, until 2009. There was a report in 2010 and now the report for 2011 is out.

The picture isn’t pretty.

Of course, since 2000, we’ve had 9/11, two wars and a major recession.

The Milestone report completed by the Minnesota State Demographic Center shows “good progress in some areas” but “the majority of indicators show either no real change or a change in a negative direction” for recent indicators.

Economic indicators showed some of the worst scores.

Reviewing these indicators seems particularly apropos given the debate of investment cuts at the Legislature.

Of the 18 economic indicators, none showed positive moves and 10 showed negative trends.

We’ve all seen how the recession has impacted employment and wages, but incomes have also fallen compared to national averages.

Job growth also lagged national average. Job growth from 2001 to 2008 in Minnesota was 2.6 percent, compared to 4 percent nationally. In the 1990s, the number of jobs grew 27 percent.

The environment in Minnesota over the last decade or so for entrepreneurs also hasn’t been good. From 2001 to 2008, the number of business establishments grew by 8.5 percent in Minnesota compared to 13.8 percent nationally. The number of businesses actually declined in 2009 by 2,600 or 1.5 percent.

Reading the Minnesota Milestone report can be downright depressing. But it should also inspire us in a way. We’ve been better than this. We have to think carefully about how policies of the past might have influenced the results of the past.

It appears we need to drastically change something.

Reprinted with permission.

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