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Hey Wisconsin, move to Minnesota

It’s way better over here.

I am a Milwaukee native and a graduate of J.I. Case High School in Racine, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a graduate of the great urban planning graduate program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. My parents and many of my family are dead and buried from Kenosha on up to Green Bay. I love beer, brats and the Green Bay Packers. I am so Wisconsin. My cousin owns a bowling alley not far from Lambeau. She has season tickets not too far from the Lambeau leap section. I used to own a baby blue AMC Gremlin and a Pacer. I have a cabin in rural Dunn County by the Chippewa River. I am so Wisconsin.

William F. McMahon

I love Wisconsin, but, like many ex-Wisconsinites who have landed and settled in Minnesota, I know there is no way I am going to move back to my home state. I've been living in Minneapolis/St. Paul for over 20 years and I can say with a fair amount of expertise that besides the Packers and Paul Smith, the outdoor writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, it’s way better over here. And I mean way better. I know Wisconsinites don’t like to hear this, and it makes many of them mad, but it’s true.

A person could go on and on about politics and drill down into public-policy issues but I won’t. It’s of course not the same Wisconsin I grew up in – riding my bike by the gates of the American Motors — later Chrysler — plant in Kenosha, playing baseball next to the Snap-On factory, watching the bars open up and fill up with third-shift workers while heading off in the morning to school. My little league team was called Sorenson Manufacturing. We used to play the American Motors Gremlins and Hornets. How cool was that?

My father taught me never to cross a union picket line. I believe for the first time since he passed he actually is really ready to roll over in his grave now that Paul Ryan, the congressman from Wisconsin District 1 and so-called brains of the Republican Party, is working to take health care away from millions, including District 1 residents. How that great Janesville GM plant went down under Ryan’s watch — and how he still has his gig and can carry on about bringing back jobs and health care  — is beyond my imagination. That’s for you all to figure out.

Back to why you should move to Minnesota. So here’s my list. It is by no means exhaustive. Yes, I know it may rub you the wrong way and make you mad so I say make your own list about why you should stay in Wisconsin or why I should move back. I’ll even start it for you: 1. Green Bay Packers.

Enough already. So Minnesota has …

  1. Higher wages. Median annual household income [data from 2015] in Minnesota = $68,730; Wisconsin = $55,425.
  2. Lots of jobs. There is a labor shortage here, and it’s getting worse.
  3. Lower property taxes.  Don’t believe the hype. I pay Wisconsin taxes on a cabin and six acres. My taxes went down 10 bucks. Big deal. Minnesota has an effective property tax rate lower than the national average. Wisconsin’s rate is the fifth highest in the U.S.
  4. Best health care in the world. Seriously. I could go on.
  5. Huge state budget surplus. We are trying to figure out what to do with 1.65 billion extra dollars while you are trying to figure out how to cut $2 billion. No, you can’t have any of our extra money.
  6. Excellent, well-funded schools. We’ve got lots and lots of them.
  7. Higher minimum wage. MN = $9.50/hour; WI = $7.25. Plus tipped workers get $9.50; in Wisconsin the minimum is $2.33.
  8. Cleaner water. I have the proof.
  9. No sales tax on clothes.
  10. Cheaper gas, lower gas tax.
  11. [Will have] ability to buy booze on Sunday. Finally, starting July 1. No more Sunday border runs.
  12. Fishing, hunting, lakes, guns, camo. We have excellent fishing and hunting and some huge Cabelas stores to get all set up.
  13. North Shore of Lake Superior. If you haven’t been, go.
  14. Hockey. We have a really really good hockey here, and if you aren’t a hockey fan when you get here you will likely become one. We have it all, from mini-mites to NHL.
  15. Global warming winner.  I don’t like global warming, but we have had really warm winters lately.
  16.  State parks. Awesome state parks.
  17. Well-funded universities, state colleges and technical schools. We aren’t hurting and cutting like all y’all. 
  18. Collective bargaining for public employees. We have it. Not going away anytime soon. If you like public service you will have good benefits and make a lot more money here.
  19. Moderate Republicans. You can be a moderate Republican here and have many friends. Our Legislature is controlled by Republicans and the governor is a Democrat. They actually get stuff done. Important stuff.
  20. Liberals. Have a bunch of them, too. Can easily find a Pussy Hat (or have someone make you one) in all parts of the state.
  21. Al Franken. He is funny and smart.
  22. Beer. We are in the midst of a craft beer explosion.
  23. Arts. We have just about anything you are into, from all sorts of music to theater to the amazing Walker Art Center.
  24. Diversity. It’s way more diverse up here now than when I first moved here. More welcoming for those with names that don’t end in “son” (e.g. Olson, Johnson) and great for the food scene.
  25. Close to Wisconsin. You can drive to a Packer game and back in a day (and I have). After you have all that extra money from your higher wage and have saved money on taxes you can drive to see your friends and relatives back in Wisconsin. Brewer tailgate party? Not a problem. Just head on over the border.

So I wanted the list to end on 25. But, I had to leave something out. Wisconsin has been, and likely will remain, the booziest state in the nation. Minnesota has some of the best alcohol rehab centers in the world. If you are a Wisconsin native with a complicated relationship with alcohol, head on over. You might just never want to go home again. Well, except for a Packer game of course.

William F. McMahon lives in St. Paul.


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Comments (21)

Packer Game AFTER Rehab???

From all I've ever heard, going to Curly Lambeau Field after being in rehab may well cause one to head right back to Hazelden for a refresher.

Maybe just catch it on TV. My hat is of to all who have taken the cure, especially those who have attended an NFL contest anywhere and remained sober.

Another Cheesehead

I have many of the same life experiences as Mr. McMahon. I grew up in Wisconsin (Beloit), graduated from college there, and lived there for 29 years. I've lived in the Twin Cities for 29 years, and I have no desire to return to Wisconsin because I prefer Minnesota.

At the same time, most of the self-perceived moral superiority of Minnesotans is misplaced and based on ignorance of the economic differences between the two states. WI was - and still is - much more dependent on mass production manufacturing than MN has ever been. As a result, globalization - transferring manufacturing jobs to low wage countries - has adversely affected WI far more than MN; likewise for the consequences of automation of factory work. In addition, MN benefits economically from its geographic isolation. MSP is a regional hub for air travel, health care, culture, and everything else; Wisconsin's major metro area (Milwaukee) is adjacent to Chicago and loses that competition hands down.

Minnesota liberals often reflexively credit Democratic Gov. Dayton with single-handedly making MN a more prosperous state than WI under their current Gov. Scott Walker. By all measures the MN economy has outperformed the WI economy since 2011 when both Dayton and Walker took office. But the MN economy also outperformed the WI economy from 2002-2010 when WI had a Democratic Governor (Doyle) and MN had a Republican Governor (Pawlenty). MN's greater prosperity resulted from the factors I noted in the second paragraph above. And on a political note, WI voted for Trump and MN for Hillary for the same reason: WI has far economically distressed blue-collar workers than does MN; flip the demographics, and each state's electoral votes would have gone to the other candidate.

Long before 2002 I saw where the economies of the two states were heading. I worked as a federal bank examiner for 12 years, about six years in WI and six in MN, traveling all over both states until 1995. The bottom line for those of us in Minnesota: let's enjoy where we live, but keep things in perspective, and lose the unjustified sense of moral superiority over our neighbors to the east.

P.S. WI has one major economic advantage over MN. WI is one of only two states that has a fully funded, actuarially sound public employee pension plan - a credit to the leaders of both parties over many decades. MN is underwater by (at last count) at least $18 billion. WI will likely never have to significantly raise taxes to meet pension obligations; MN almost certainly will given the stranglehold that public sector unions have on the DFL.

Wouldn't all of that

Comport with the general thrust of the piece? If Wisconsin is lesser than Minnesota from a structurally economic perspective, wouldn't that in fact be an even stronger argument for its residents to emigrate to our fine state?

Some excellent points

Too many people perform side by side comparisons of Minnesota and Wisconsin like they were part of a randomized controlled trial of political and economic policy and ignore the fundamental differences in their economies mentioned in the comment above.

I would take issue with point #19 in the article which credits our state government with getting a lot done. I think the Governor and the legislature have not been particularly effective in finding compromise on a number of issues - which is one reason why the state continues to run such a surplus since the DFL tax increases overshot the mark so much (due to strong MN economy, see above) but there is no consensus what to do with this recurring surplus. Thus our recurring budget surplus are more a sign of government dysfunction than strong political policy.

Webster and Hess are right on about Minnesota's 2 advantages

Our Minneapolis advantage over Milwaukee, you just have to look at the map to see that. And Wisconsin's dependence on mass production manufacturing, especially heavy industry and machining can't be ignored.

But Minnesota has one advantage that the author didn't mention and that is an advantage that Minnesota has over most of the states in flyover land. Minnesota put its state research university in the heart of its major metropolitan area. Its state capitol is also in the metro area and that is probably also an advantage.


The republicans do not get any credit for the solid state of the public employees pension plan. Then Gov. Thompson devised a plan several decades ago to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from the fund, and it took almost 10 years and a U.S. Supreme Court decision to force the return of those funds. Even today the republicans want to get their hands into the fund.

Blast to WI voters?

Can this be sent to all WI voters so they might come back to their senses and get rid of Scott Walker before he makes WI lower than Mississippi in all categories?

Their Senses

These economic comparisons are not new. Perhaps Wisconsin residents came to their senses in the period 2002 to 2010 when Minnesota had Governor Pawlenty (R) and Wisconsin had Governor Doyle (D).

MN set to lose a congresional seat....

Apparently - - not many are taking your advice. The blue and warmer states of Florida - Texas - Arizona - here we come.

Was always thinking about it

Do you have a MinnExit movement there? Might be warmer but still so damn cold... LOL!
Maybe maybe.....
My apartment building is raising the rent 69%....
Got to move somewhere!

Will We Ever Get Over It?

Will we in Minnesota ever get over ourselves? No.

Weary of touting our superiority with respect to Iowa, we now like to paint ourselves in favorable light and contrast ourselves to our neighbors to the East. It all comes of as a bit insecure. It takes me back to the days when Governor Perpich erected signs on the major roads coming into Minnesota, "The Brain Power State".

You call Wisconsin the booziest state, yet you tout Minnesota's Sunday liquor sales (#11) and beer (#22) as reasons to move to Minnesota?

Believe me

Nobody holds a candle to the Ol' Motherland in that regard. I wonder if "road tripping" means the same to other high school age folks as it did to us in rural Wisconsin...

Get Over Ourselves!

I'm prepared to bet Minnesota is unique in this brand of state-centric boosterism.


I'll take that bet. This is only one guy writing what he thinks.


Having heard from relatives that Washington State is proof of God's love for America, having spent years listening to my college roommate wax on and on and on and on about New Hampshire, listening to a fellow guest at a friend's wedding wonder why Minnesota was allowed on the same continent as California . . . I get that.

I have long argued that the

I have long argued that the greatest thing about Wisconsin is how close it is to Minnesota.

Nice article

Another cheese head once removed: been here since 83, wife since 80, (yep got property with a shed in NW WI, taxes are 2X a full 1800 Sq. Ft. house in MPLs. Biggest feature Progressive thinking, and fiscal discipline, Arnie Carlson made me a believer/despite his party casting him into the wilderness. ,

Side by Side Rates of Tax

Wisconsin gets more of its tax revenue from property tax and Minnesota gets it from income tax and sales tax. Here is a side-by-side comparison.

Your Wisconsin land is likely larger than your city lot and your city lot is less likely to have a shore than your NW Wisconsin lot. If so, your comparison might not be a fair one.

Thinking of Moving

I'm a retiree who lives in the NYC metro area and I'm considering moving to the mid-west, specifically, Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan. Honestly, my #1 reason to possibly move, is that New Yorkers are not the warmest people on the planet. Where I live (east Long Island), they are downright rude and cold. Seriously, ice cold, emotionless, and no eye contact.

Don't say good morning or wave to a neighbor because you might not get a reply or you'll be looked at as if you're going for their wallet and the person will just turn his or her back to you. Think of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" or the "Twilight Zone", that pretty much sums up the behavior. For some, this dissociation from other humans might be heaven, but for me, it is leading to an ongoing unhappiness.

I've heard and read that the mid-west is the friendliest part of the US and would appreciate any responses. I'm not looking for a bestie or for friends, but human civility. The word normalcy comes to mind. Thank you in advance.

see my comment below

Minnesota is friendlier than NYC

Minnesota is friendlier than NYC

This article is old, so you may not get many comments. I can't tell you about Wisconsin or Michigan, but Minnesota is definitely friendlier than New York. When you signal on the road, people make room and let you change lanes! In Minneapolis, there are lots of people who have moved here from other places, New York included. When we first moved to Minneapolis from Boston I was surprised that a number of people invited us to Thanksgiving dinner, knowing we didn't have family here. Good luck!