Minnesota Moves Toward Modernity

Few Great Lakes states have moved as quickly as Minnesota to pursue an innovative policy agenda and lay a groundwork that strives to ensure a prosperous, beautiful, and neighborly place to live in the 21st century. The state is emerging as a model for how to transform the Rust Relt to the Blue Belt.

MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty doesn't support raising the gas tax. But last week he signed legislation calling for 25 percent of his state's energy to be generated from renewable sources by 2025. Analysts call it the most aggressive energy innovation agenda in the nation.

"When we invest in wind, solar and biomass energy projects, thousands of jobs and billions of dollars will flow to Minnesota's economy - not out-of-state energy companies," the governor said.

Leaders in Ohio continue to dismiss an important compact to sustain the Great Lakes as a property rights grab. But Minnesota passed it. Now the state is all but daring Michigan, Ohio, and others to follow through with a similiar commitment to the regional economy and environment.

"I'll issue a good-natured challenge to our other Great Lakes states to get it done sooner rather than later," Gov. Pawlenty said after signing the bill to safeguard the Great Lakes from heavy water withdrawals.

And two weeks ago Gov. Pawlenty dropped in on the Michigan Republican Party's convention in Grand Rapids to offer some advice on tax policy. Basically, he said cutting taxes - the principal priority of conservatives in the Great Lakes State even as they wrestle with a $900 million budget deficit - isn't necessarily the key to driving growth and investment these days.

"We're never going to be a bargain-basement place," Pawlenty said about Minnesota. "That's not our heritage, that's not our tradition, that's not what we want to be. In general, you have to strike the right balance."

Thanks to Peter Luke at Booth Newspapers for gleaning that particularly relevant quote. He also dug up these fun facts: Minnesota has lower unemployment, higher per capita income, more college educated residents, and lower taxes when compared to Michigan. MN also generated three times the economic growth of MI in recent years.

Maybe the decades-long push to continually slash taxes in Michigan isn't working.

Indeed, for the greater Great Lakes region, the path from de-industrialization to modern prosperity may go through Minnesota.