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Minnesota’s reputation taking a hit with government shutdown

In 1973, Wendell Anderson landed on the cover of Time promoting “A State that Works.” But now, instead of national acclaim, Minnesota is becoming known as the state that doesn’t work.

The Good Life in Minnesota
Minnesota Historical Society

In the eyes of the world, Minnesota’s government has come a long way since 1973, when Time magazine profiled Minnesota as the “A State that Works.”

Back then, politics was considered an “honorable profession,” and civic engagement was the key to the growth of the state’s arts and culture and sports.

And — with Gov. Wendell Anderson on the cover wearing a blue plaid shirt over a red turtleneck and smiling as he displayed a northern — the story applauded a state where voters “were willing to elect a man who promised to raise some of their taxes in return for larger overall gains.”

In 2010, the state elected another governor who advocated tax increases for what he believed was the greater good. But instead of national acclaim and colorful photo ops, Minnesota is now becoming known around the country and around the world as the state that doesn’t work.

The New York Times, writing about the state’s now week-old government shutdown, editorializes that anti-tax extremists are trying to hijack the state:

“[E]ssential services for the poor, like food pantries and child care subsidies, have evaporated. Many parents say they may have to quit their jobs if state-subsidized child care does not resume quickly. The shutdown will cost the state money since many of the 22,000 laid-off workers will receive unemployment benefits and health insurance, while the treasury is unable to collect on tax audits, lottery tickets and park fees.”

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Some stories dispel the Minnesota Nice image, with folks hollering at politicians in public: ran a wire story about the experience of state Sen. Ted Daley, a Republican, in Eagan’s Fourth of July parade:

“[S]ome of his constituents wondered loudly why he wasn’t at the state Capitol 10 miles to the north trying to end the state government shutdown that was in its fourth day. ‘Go get your job done!’ shouted Bill Egan, a 52-year-old salesman who said he is disgusted by the standoff between Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, and the Republicans who control the Legislature.

National Public Radio, too, noted that Minnesotans are quickly becoming fed up with the politicking: “Frustrated residents lined parade routes and shouted at waving politicians, telling them to ‘get back to work.’ “

• Political cartoonists also are taking their shots: Joe Heller in the Green Bay Gazette Press Gazette called us the “Land of 10,000 Snakes.” And Dave Granlund of shows Gov. Dayton in a boat, trying to start the state’s budget engine before it goes over the falls.

Political cartoon detail
Political cartoon detail

In the Washington Post on Tuesday, the implication was: Bad Government in Minnesota. With the headline “Minnesota shutdown drags on,” the story said:

“The government shutdown has thrown thousands of state employees out of work with no idea when they might return. Construction projects have been stalled. And millions of dollars in state revenues will likely be lost: Minnesota is losing an estimated $200,000 a day from the closure of state parks alone.”

Yahoo News used the headline: “Some noticeable casualties after Minn. Shutdown.” And the story had a quote that echoed of political gamesmanship more often seen in Chicago:

“I personally think the Republicans will probably be more damaged than the governor” by the shutdown, said freshman Rep. Mike LeMieur, R-Little Falls, who toppled an incumbent Democrat in November. “The fact is that we’re all up for re-election again next year, and he’s not up for three years.”

Fox News, too, said: “Minnesota shutdown prompts political blame game..”

But not everyone is buying into damage to Minnesota’s image.

Finance & Commerce found an expert who said the shutdown shouldn’t cause the state any long-term harm when it comes to attracting new businesses:

Christopher Steele, president of the Newton Highlands, Mass.-based CWS Consulting Group, said: “Five years from now, no one is going to remember this,” Steele said, “provided you come out with something useful on this.”

The International Business Times, though, hinted at class warfare in the North Star State: “Minnesota Government Shutdown: Don’t Make (Literally) Millionaires Pay More Taxes.”

The Wall Street Journal, of course, is interested in employment, and in a story headlined “Land of 10,000 Layoffs; The stakes in the Minnesota government shutdown,” notes:

“Minnesota prides itself as the land where liberal governance works, but lately the wheels have come off. The state is broke, and as of July 1 most state services are closed amid a budget stalemate between Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and Republicans who run the legislature.”

But the Washington Post on Thursday said there’s no way to tell just what the shutdown will cost (which may affect how sullied the state’s reputation is at the end of this).

It’s especially hard, John Pollard, a spokesman for the Minnesota Management and Budget Office, told The Fix blog, because: “Several of each agencies staff that would help calculate these costs are currently laid off.”

But it does say: “While the details are fuzzy, one thing is clear. Even with government barely functioning, the shutdown will almost definitely cost Minnesota more than it saves.”

And we have to wonder about the long-term cost to our reputation.