Throughout this session, Republican legislative leaders have made repeated references to Indiana and Texas as states that Minnesota should emulate to compete in the future.
Certainly, for Minnesotans who have lofty views of our Star of the North, these comparisons can be jarring.
Indiana? Why, of all places, are Minnesota Republicans so keen on comparing Minnesota to Indiana?
“A Midwest state like us,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers last week.
What brings a sparkle to the eyes of Minnesota Republicans when talk turns to Indiana is the job that Gov. Mitch Daniels has done in putting public employee unions in their place.
Interestingly, our state’s Republican legislators seem to speak more respectfully of Daniels than they do of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Daniels is seen as a governor whose head, heart and budgets all are in the right places. He’s done in Indiana what must be done in Minnesota, our Republican legislators believe, if Minnesota is to be “open for business.”
If low tax rates and small governments are the keys to attracting business and creating jobs — and the Republican legislators are convinced that they are — Indiana and Texas are more friendly than Minnesota.
In a Tax Foundation ranking of “business-friendly” states, a ranking based on taxes, Minnesota ranked No. 43, with Indiana was No. 10 and Texas 13th. (South Dakota, by the Foundation’s reckoning, is the most business friendly state in the land. New York is the least business friendly.)
But what Minnesota Republicans never mention when they talk so reverentially about Texas and Indiana is that unemployment is substantially higher in those business-friendly states.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Minnesota’s unemployment rate stood at 6.7 percent at the end of January, the 11th-lowest rate in the country. Meantime, Texas ranked No. 22, with 8.3 percent of its workforce unemployed. Indiana, with a 9.1 percent unemployment rate, is 29th in the nation.
Our state legislators also don’t mention that Minnesota workers are paid better than workers in either Indiana or Texas. Census data shows that the median income in Minnesota is $55,616, a figure that includes benefits. In Indiana, the median is $45,424, with benefits. In Texas, it’s $48,259.
There is an oft-stated belief among the Republican majority that what’s good for business is good for Minnesota.
But again, using stats from the Census Bureau, there are a least a few clues that not all that glimmers for business is gold for workers.
In Texas, 13.4 percent of the families have incomes under the poverty level. In Indiana, 10.7 percent of the families survive under the poverty level. In Minnesota, 7 percent of families have incomes under the poverty level.
In Minnesota, 21 percent of those 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree. In Texas, the percentage is 17 and in Indiana 14.5 percent.
Texas and Indiana may have healthier business climates, but neither state is as concerned about the health of their residents as Minnesota.
In Texas, a staggering 23.8 percent of the population has no health insurance. In Indiana, 14 percent try to get by with no health insurance. In Minnesota, according to the Census Bureau, that number is 9 percent.
All things considered, this is a reminder that politicians, like everyone else, always should be careful of what they wish for.