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Our View: ‘Best-run’ is state’s latest national distinction

December 16, 2017 GMT

When it comes to rankings of the best states in the Union in any number of categories, Minnesota is in an enviable rut.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that we’re at the top of another of those “best state in the nation” listings.

This one is from the website 24/7 Wall Street, which bases its listing largely on economic matters. The financial news website declares Minnesota the “best-run” state, with Utah No. 2, followed by Iowa, Oregon and Washington. Sorry, Wisconsin, you’re No. 20.

The analysts obviously liked what they saw when they looked closely at the State of Minnesota’s financial position and other economic data about the people who live and work here. They noted the state’s low unemployment rate (3.3 percent in October), healthy state savings account (10.3 percent of the total budget), a strong tax base that brings in $4,400 per year per resident, and a median income of $65,599, which is about $8,000 more than the national average.

“Minnesota has a nearly perfect credit rating from Moody’s with a stable outlook,” the analysis says.

That’s among the reasons the state has climbed in the 24/7 rankings from 10th in 2012 to No. 1 this year.

Elected officials from both parties would like to claim credit. Gov. Mark Dayton should get more than his share, under the general rule that when things are going well, the governor basks in the limelight. If the opposite were true, he’d certainly be taking his lumps. During Dayton’s seven years in office, Minnesota has fared well.

Clouding the state’s rosy outlook, however, is the latest financial estimate that says the state will face a $188 million budget shortfall, after tax cuts and more spending approved during this year’s legislative session. How Dayton and Republican leaders deal with the deficit, which is a small percentage of the total budget, obviously will affect future rankings — and more important, the quality of life of the state’s residents.

That’s a challenge for the Legislature and governor early next year. For now, Minnesotans should enjoy this new recognition of our state’s strong economy, our well-educated and productive workers, and outstanding quality of life. Not long ago it was US News placing Minnesota third (behind Massachusetts and New Hampshire) in its Best States rankings. Minnesota has finished at or near the top in other recent surveys, including CNBC’s Top States for Business and Gallup’s Top State on the Job Creation Index (2016).

Yes, taxes are higher than elsewhere, but even our tax structure won support from the 60 percent of Minnesotans who responded in a recent Minnesota Public Radio poll who said they get good value for their state tax dollars.

There’s plenty to improve here and wherever you happen to live -- and it’s a good thing that these economic polls don’t take winter into account -- but it’s important to pause, step back and put everything in context. Most Minnesotans have a lot to be thankful for.