Minnesota: Why Are We Still Here?

Minnesota: Why Are We Still Here?

The quality of our life and our society has been determined by the choices we have made, our decision to pay taxes and devote those funds to the greater good, and the quality of our civic leadership, writes Vance Opperman.

To: Alexander Ramsey High School
1961 Alumni Reunion Committee

University of Minnesota Law School
1969 Alumni Reunion Committee

Dear fellow alumni:

Alumni reunion meetings were interrupted by Covid, so it was great to finally get together. It was impressive to see so many people vertical and ambulatory, and name tags helped. But these reunions raise a question: Why are so many of us still in the state of Minnesota?

After all, outsiders often tell us that in Minnesota, taxes are too high and temperatures are too low.

• Taxes. No matter how you look at it, Minnesota tax rates have been consistently higher than in most other states, and this trend goes back at least 90 years. The most recent analysis by the conservative Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence rates Minnesota ninth in the nation in total state and local taxes as a percentage of cash income. On the other hand, as analyzed by Joe Michael—a retired tax policy analyst for House Research—for average-income folks, Minnesota’s income tax is only modestly above the nation’s average, Lori Sturdevant recently noted in the Star Tribune. But Minnesotans, keep your eyes on the prize here: Why have so few of us moved to very-low-tax states like Mississippi?

Part of the answer to that question is you get what you pay for. There are a number of national rankings, but most of them—U.S. News & World Reports for example—generally rank Minnesota in the top two or three states in which to live. WalletHub, based on 51 different metrics, just ranked us the fourth-best state in which to raise a family (Mississippi was last).

• Weather. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the ideal temperature for a household refrigerator is 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The cold season here lasts for 3.3 months with an average daily high below 36 degrees. So for those months, you’d be warmer if you lived in your refrigerator. Winter means you don’t have to cut the grass or water the outdoor plants. Winter is proof that we are hardy people—that’s why we keep telling outsiders how cold it is.

We are the State of Hockey and there is a banner hanging from the rafters of Xcel Energy Center that attests to that fact. Hockey is the most popular high school sport in Minnesota. The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament is the largest state sports tournament in terms of attendance in the country, besting the state high school football tournament in Florida and the state high school basketball tournament in Indiana. There are out-of-state parents who enroll their children in Minnesota schools to play high school hockey.

The season that might be more explainable to non-Minnesotans is summer.

For three and a half months, there is no finer state to be in than Minnesota—June, July, and August. Summer ends with the Minnesota State Fair, which without question, is the best state fair in the country. These are but a few of the tangible attributes of our state, but as all alumni know, you really stay here because of the people. And we elect some of these fine people.

• Governors. Our governors have generally been reflective of the common sense and goodwill that typifies our state; Govs. Orville Freeman, Harold Levander, Al Quie, Wendell Anderson, Arnie Carlson, Rudy Perpich, Tim Pawlenty, and Mark Dayton all served honestly and with real accomplishment. Most of our governors, regardless of party, continued to emphasize the quality of our education at all levels. Gov. Arnie Carlson, one of our most able (and, honestly, most cantankerous) governors never graduated from the University of Minnesota, nor played any sports there, but chose to have his official gubernatorial portrait portraying him in a U of M Gopher letter sweater.

Just to show that Minnesotans can have fun and do not always take politicians as seriously as they take themselves, 37% of us elected a fake wrestler with an assumed name as governor, Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Ventura treated the governorship as a gig, but his administration accomplished serious results for the state of Minnesota.

We Minnesotans do not wake up in the morning to hear unreasoned personal attacks, calls for violence, or denigration of our civic institutions from our elected leaders. We do not read of our elected leaders being indicted, or impeached, or under serious criminal investigation. We do not have political leaders who seem to be surrounded by advisors and appointees who get convicted or plead guilty to felonies.

The quality of our life and our society has been determined by the choices we have made, our decision to pay taxes and devote those funds to the greater good, and the quality of our civic leadership. It is, after all, because of the collective results of these decisions—the very essence of who we are—that keeps so many of us as Minnesotans. And so, upon reflection, it is not a surprise that so many of the alumni who I got to see at our reunions have decided to stay right here.

Sincerely, and happy to be here

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