Minnesota, Wisconsin comparisons hinge on major urban characteristics

Matt Pommer • Wisconsin Newspaper Association

Gov. Scott Walker is annoyed with the media. He says reporters and editors are paying too much attention to news of companies closing or laying off workers.

Walker wants more people to be talking about the state’s unemployment rate, now below the national average. There are more than 80,000 job openings in Wisconsin, the governor told a Northern Wisconsin Economic Development Summit.

Meanwhile, the non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance reported that Wisconsin trails Minnesota by 8.5 percent in per capita income. By comparison Wisconsin hada5percentleadoverMinnesota in the period ending 1966, the WTA report said.

Wisconsin still has 5.5 percent more tax-filers than Minnesota, but the number of those earning $200,000 or more is 43.6 percent higher in Minnesota.

The WTA said one factor is that there are more jobs in the Minneapolis St. Paul metropolitan area than in the four-county Milwaukee metropolitan area. Minnesota corporate headquarters tend to be in the 14-county metropolitan area, while just half of Wisconsin corporate headquarters are in the Milwaukee metropolitan area.

Having a larger number of corporate headquarters in an area helps provides a “vibrant and fluid labor market” with a pool of seasoned individuals who can easily move to other companies, it added.

Attracting and retaining a quality corporate work force has long been a topic among Milwaukee business and government leaders. A poll sponsored by the Public Policy Forum of nearly 500 millennials working in the Milwaukee area provided a new focus on the question.

The top issue for them is the crime rate, followed by the economy. Milwaukee scored high in cultural and entertainment opportunities among this group. Good and uncongested roads were also in the hopes of those polled.

Walker also seemed to have roads on his mind in his remarks to the northern economic summit. He talked about the need for government to be a better partner including providing a good infrastructure. Highway funding and state aid for local roads has been an on-going issue as fuel-efficient vehicles reduce gasoline tax revenues. Walker has opted to borrow for transportation needs.

The governor also talked about reducing income and property taxes in future years. His comments increased speculation he would seek a third term as governor in 2018. He already has said he isn’t interested in running for the U.S. Senate. That seat is now held by a Democrat, Tammy Baldwin.

The governor has been a frequent visitor to northern Wisconsin since he abandoned his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. A Marquette University Law School poll, taken in late summer showed only 38 percent supported Walker. There was widespread dissatisfaction of him campaigning for president while he was governor.

Erosion of his support among citizens was especially noticeable in “outstate” area stretching through western and northern parts of the state.

Taxes were not a key issue in the poll of Milwaukee-area millennials. Lowering income taxes has long been a part of the Wisconsin Republican approach for economic development. Someone is sure to note that Minnesota has higher income tax rates than Wisconsin.

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