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Mediocre Minnesota: Economy, services slip as government spending shrinks, report says

Minnesota is slipping toward mediocrity as the state and local governments decrease their expenditures, according to a report released this week by the think tank Minnesota 2020.

Minnesota is slipping toward mediocrity as the state and local governments decrease their expenditures, according to a report released this week by the think tank Minnesota 2020.

Representatives from the group released the report locally at a Thursday morning news conference in Duluth City Hall.

According to the report, Minnesota's ranking among the states has slipped in a number of key indicators of economic performance and quality of public services since 2002.

"Minnesota has historically been a leader," said Matt Entenza, Minnesota 2020's founder. "But Minnesota, instead of leading the pack, is falling toward the back of the pack."

The report focused on how much Minnesota's ranking among America's states changed in 12 key areas between 2002 and the most recent year for which numbers were available, either 2006 or 2007.

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The state's ranking remained unchanged in only one area: the percentage of population covered by health insurance, where Minnesota ranked first.

In all other areas the state's ranking slid, and sometimes substantially. The state went from having the 14th lowest rate of unemployment to having the 32nd. Its ranking for employment growth dropped from 27th to 44th. In per capita state and local spending for education, Minnesota went from 12th to 18th.

"We need to increase investments in key areas," including transportation, economic development and education, said Entenza, who served as a Democratic-Farmer-Labor state representative from St. Paul from 1994 to 2006. He was the house minority leader for four years.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty's spokesman for greater Minnesota, Alex Carey, dismissed Minnesota 2020 and discounted its report.

"Minnesotans support Gov. Pawlenty's record of holding government accountable and keeping taxes down, despite the ongoing whining of liberal think tanks," he said.

Minnesota 2020 cited the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Education Association, National Assessment of Educational Progress and the U.S. Department of Transportation as sources in the report, which can be viewed at www.MN2020.org .

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