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How does Minnesota compare as a well-run state?

I came across an interesting study recently and began to look into it deeper. Once a year, a survey of all 50 states is compiled by the website It uses a variety of factors and data to put out its report, titled "The Best and Worst Run States in America: A Survey of All 50".

Strong emphasis is put on fiscal and financial health of each state, but also looked at are things like economic growth, poverty levels, income levels, unemployment, high school graduation rates, violent crime rates and real estate foreclosures. In the study, each state is listed how it ranks in several fiscal and financial categories and a short commentary is given by the author regarding other influencing factors.

Which state was rated the best-run state in America? It's our next-door neighbor, North Dakota. The contributing factors that placed North Dakota at the top were a zero budget deficit, the nation's lowest unemployment rate, the 13th lowest percentage of people living under the poverty line, and a low debt per capita.

As noted in the commentary, a large part of North Dakota's fiscal success is due to the oil boom in the western half of the state, but credit can also be given to the three largest cities of Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck as having thriving and healthy economies other than oil-related industries.

What state is rated as the worst-run state in America? You may have already guessed it - California, for the second year in a row. Due to high levels of debt and a poor S&P credit rating, which is the worst of all states, California's financial and fiscal status is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. It has the 17th highest budget deficit and the second highest unemployment rate. Home prices plunged 33 percent last year and the foreclosure rate is the third highest in the nation. These factors, coupled with the highest income tax burdens and the third-worst business climate, make California the lowest-rated state.

So, how did Minnesota compare? Minnesota was rated 10th. Our state scored above average in all the categories and received a favorable commentary. Minnesota has the second highest rate of adults with a high school diploma in the nation (92 percent), and just 8.8 percent of the state population lacks health insurance.

Some other statistics of note are (1) we have the 10th lowest poverty rate; (2) the eighth lowest crime rate; and (3) a relatively low debt per capita. But, some downside factors include (1) one of the highest state and local tax burdens at 10.8 percent of income; and (2) with Democrats now controlling the state Legislature, even higher taxes may be in the future. But, all in all, the author of this study was highly complimentary of Minnesota.

So, I was curious as to what this analysis may tell us. So I made a spreadsheet ranking all states in each category, and some surprising numbers jumped out. For example, only four states have a balanced budget and a zero budget deficit (North Dakota, Alaska, Montana and Arkansas). Also, 22 of the top 25 states were northern states, and 12 of the top 25 were "right to work states." That must say something about the work ethic of northerners, and living in a cold climate. Or, maybe I'm just trying to justify why we live here! As usual, I'm just sayin'.

DuWayne Paul