Conservation Minnesota

John Tuma’s Blog

Yes, it’s true. Minnesota was featured in a 1973 issue of Time magazine with an article entitled, “A State That Works.” On the cover of the magazine was then Governor Wendell Anderson holding a scrawny northern in his best Elmer Fudd blue plaid looking every bit the Minnesotan on a dock of one of our famous 10,000 lakes with the title, “The Good Life in Minnesota”. In 1973 Minnesota was known for being a state that worked hard both in business and governance. Minnesota was home to some of the fastest-growing Fortune 500 companies with the reputation of being innovative leaders.

“Minnesota: A State That Works.”
Time Magazine
Aug. 13, 1973

Minnesota’s reputation for its governance was also one of success and innovation. At that time Anderson was in his first term and he proposed a major shift in Minnesota’s tax structure known as the “Minnesota Miracle.” At that time most Minnesota services were funded through the regressive property tax by local units of government, including counties, cities, and schools. His plan called for the state to take over a large share of the funding of education to relieve the burden of property-owning taxpayers. This required a large increase in the state taxes and budget. When he took office, Anderson proposed a $762 million boost in state taxes, nearly a 30% increase in the biennial budget. And as politicians were expected back then, he had to compromise to a $588 million boost with substantial increases in the taxes on liquor and cigarettes, along with corporate and personal income taxes and a 1 cent rise in the sales tax. He was able to make a strong pitch for these taxes by substantially increasing state aid for education from 43 percent to 63 percent which allowed meaningful reductions in the property tax burden (on average 11.5%).

Minnesota Republicans were licking their chops to take on Anderson in his 1974 re-election bid viewing this huge tax increase as certain death in the polls. His opponent in the election was John W. Johnson, you remember him, don’t you? A seasoned Minneapolis legislator back when Minneapolis did have a few Republicans in office. He would appeal to voters in his home metro area while still being able to win the traditionally conservative rural parts of Minnesota. And what a perfect political name for Minnesota — “Johnson” to neutralize that Andersen name. Minnesota voters in 1974 showed their sophistication and independent streak again when Anderson more than doubled the votes cast on for Johnson in a crushing victory for the tax-increasing governor. As a side note, the Legislature also swung decisively DFL that election.

Three decades later, Minnesota is again making national news. In the last decade there have been only six state government shutdowns for lack of a state budget and two of them have now occurred in Minnesota. It is amazing how different the Time magazine story title now reads for Minnesota, “Minnesota State Govt Shutdown: Precursor for Washington?”

If you’re one that likes the 1973 headline better and wants to see Minnesota get back to work, please join a few like-minded Minnesotans for a camp out. Since our state parks are closed, several people are joining together at the Capitol grounds on Saturday setting up their tents to make a point. Join together with your fellow Minnesotans, Conservation Minnesota, Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota, the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, and others to demand that all our parks are funded, our water and air are protected, and our Great Outdoors are preserved for future generations to enjoy. Come to the Capitol mall with your tent and camping gear on Saturday, July 9th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

About John Tuma

John Tuma

John is a former state legislator and litigation attorney. He served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for eight years from the Northfield area, beginning in 1994. Elected as a Republican, John was known for his independent thinking and ability to work across party lines. He is well-known in Minnesota state government circles.

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