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.
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 …
- Higher wages. Median annual household income [data from 2015] in Minnesota = $68,730; Wisconsin = $55,425.
- Lots of jobs. There is a labor shortage here, and it’s getting worse.
- 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.
- Best health care in the world. Seriously. I could go on.
- 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.
- Excellent, well-funded schools. We’ve got lots and lots of them.
- Higher minimum wage. MN = $9.50/hour; WI = $7.25. Plus tipped workers get $9.50; in Wisconsin the minimum is $2.33.
- Cleaner water. I have the proof.
- No sales tax on clothes.
- Cheaper gas, lower gas tax.
- [Will have] ability to buy booze on Sunday. Finally, starting July 1. No more Sunday border runs.
- Fishing, hunting, lakes, guns, camo. We have excellent fishing and hunting and some huge Cabelas stores to get all set up.
- North Shore of Lake Superior. If you haven’t been, go.
- 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.
- Global warming winner. I don’t like global warming, but we have had really warm winters lately.
- State parks. Awesome state parks.
- Well-funded universities, state colleges and technical schools. We aren’t hurting and cutting like all y’all.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Al Franken. He is funny and smart.
- Beer. We are in the midst of a craft beer explosion.
- Arts. We have just about anything you are into, from all sorts of music to theater to the amazing Walker Art Center.
- 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.
- 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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