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There is a lot of disagreement right now on the state of our state. A few weeks ago, in his State of the State address, Gov. Tim Walz depicted Minnesota as a progressive utopia that should be an example for all of America. On the other hand, some on the right describe the state as something approaching a barren hellscape (a description some of us have reserved for Wisconsin (in jest of course)).

The truth is that, although Minnesota is not a scene out of Dante's "Inferno," the North Star State is in serious decline. From the economy, to education, to crime, to folks relocating beyond our borders, Minnesota is going the wrong direction and needs a new path forward.

On the economy, Minnesota's economic growth has been disappointing since 2011, lagging national averages. While neighboring states have seen significant increases in job creation and wage growth, Minnesota has struggled to keep pace. In 2023 Minnesota's GDP growth was 43rd in the country, and although Minnesotans have historically enjoyed a substantially higher GDP per capita than the U.S. average, that advantage has evaporated over the past six years.

This economic decline is certainly not due to any lack of public investment. Since 2010 the Minnesota general budget has increased over 130% and the economy has grown by just 22%.

Once the pride of the nation, Minnesota's education system is struggling. Test scores have steadily declined. For example, in 2013 statewide reading proficiency was 57.8% and math proficiency was 61.2%. In 2023, those numbers fell to 49.7% and 45.3% respectively. This decline began before the pandemic (math proficiency in 2019 declined to 54.9%) and has occurred despite substantial inflation-adjusted increases in per capita spending. Those results, and their implications for our state's future, should haunt every public official. Despite countless exemplary teachers throughout our state, we must face the truth that the educational system — with its extensive bureaucracies and allocation of funds to many places outside of the classroom — is failing our kids.

Public safety continues to be a massive problem. Although many on the left blamed COVID lockdowns for the immense increases in crime of 2020 and 2021, communities across the state are still grappling with persistent and serious criminal activity. In 2023, murders in Minneapolis were still 50% higher than in 2019 and murders in St. Paul are still nearly double what they had been before 2020. Statewide, 2023 saw 179 murders, again a more than 50% increase relative to 2019.

Minnesota is also experiencing a deeply troubling exodus of the working-age population. Star Tribune columnist Evan Ramstad has pointed out that over the last few years nearly 30,000 working age people have left our state. Pew Research data shows that Minnesota has the ninth-highest rate of millennial out-migration of any state in the country. Those trends are deeply troubling for the future of our economy and themselves make clear that all is not well in our state.

Alongside these realities, and a partial cause of these realities, is the state's sprint to the hard left. From calls to defund the police, to dangerous legislative proposals (SF 2724 and HF 2860) to transform Minnesota into a sanctuary state, to 40% increases in our state budget in one year, state leadership has pursued a reckless course for Minnesota. The embrace of such policies suggests to our people and the world that Minnesota's government is kooky and not a place in which to do business or raise a family.

Some reading this will note that all I've done is list a serious of problems without solutions. I have certainly not historically been shy about solutions, and recently my organization offered a series of proposals to grow our economy.

My point here is that we must understand where we are in order to understand the direction we must go. And no amount of happy talk or political posturing can change the reality that Minnesota is in a dangerous place. There are possible solutions, but we must first change direction from the hard-left policies our state has recently embraced. We must choose a different path marked by fiscal responsibility, government accountability, responsible public safety and a sober evaluation of Minnesota's priorities. With that path renewal is possible.

Jim Schultz is the president of the Minnesota Private Business Council. He was a candidate for Minnesota attorney general in 2022.