WI, MN Governors Announce Steps to Collaborate, Save Money

September 28, 2010

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty have announced the first steps in a nation-leading effort to share services and become more efficient by cooperating between their states. Minnesota and Wisconsin will work together on more than 80 projects to save money and improve government operations, including the coordination of a Midwest Rail Initiative and protecting and improving the water quality of the St. Louis River.

On January 13, 2009 both governors signed Executive Orders directing their cabinet agencies to work with their counterparts across the border to find ways for the two states to collaborate.  Hundreds of ideas were discussed and explored and more than 80 rose to the top due to their impact, feasibility or need.  Other ideas continue to be developed and considered. 

"This marks the start of an important effort to cut government spending while protecting essential services during a tough economic time for our country," Governor Doyle said.  "We are committed to taking action now and building on these efforts in the future."

"These challenging times provide us an opportunity to make state government more accountable and efficient," Governor Pawlenty said.  "Working together with our neighbors in Wisconsin will advance these goals."

In general, initiatives fell into one of five broad categories:

  1. Joint Procurement & Best Practices – Collaboration to save on purchased goods or services, learning and improving from practices in other states 
  2. Cross Border Collaboration – Opportunities to improve by partnership along or across the border 
  3. IT Systems – Sharing, developing, or leveraging IT resources to improve government 
  4. Reciprocity – Making government work better by making borders permeable for customers 
  5. Shared Resources – Sharing resources to improve their utilization or unit cost


Below are brief summaries of some selected initiatives in each category:

Joint Procurement & Best Practices

Wisconsin and Minnesota already collaborate on a number of procurements (such as prescription drugs) or have saved money by entering into long-term contracts.  Agencies identified opportunities to save money by utilizing best practices. 

  • Shipping Service Contracts – Wisconsin is looking at collaborating with Minnesota on their small package delivery service contract which could lower related shipping costs by 30-55%.
  • Unemployment Debit/Shared Service Cards – Wisconsin is exploring joining Minnesota’s contract for debit card/shared value card services in order to reduce administrative costs by over $1 million.
  • Unemployment Insurance Reimbursement – Minnesota is evaluating Wisconsin’s Unemployment Insurance Reimbursement and will request a higher reimbursement rate for administrative costs from the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Institutional Food Menu and Procurement Consolidation – By adopting Minnesota’s system of menu planning, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections expects to save over $1 million.  Further savings could be possible at Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ institutions and through consolidated procurement with Minnesota.
  • Major Purchases – Governor Doyle and Governor Pawlenty are directing their agencies to contact their counterparts before initiating major procurements in order to identify possible savings.   

Cross Border Collaboration

Sharing a border along the Mississippi River and many similar policy issues, Wisconsin and Minnesota identified numerous opportunities to be more effective or more efficient by working together and sharing resources along the common border.

  • Invasive Pest Control – Both states are facing issues with invasive pests such as gypsy moth or emerald ash borer.  By coordinating on inspections and outreach, Wisconsin and Minnesota can improve results and save money.
  • Coordination on Midwest Rail Initiative – Minnesota and Wisconsin are discussing ways to collaborate to help make high speed rail running through Wisconsin from the Twin Cities to Chicago a reality.
  • Electronic State-to-State Case Reporting – Wisconsin and Minnesota intend to modify their Disease Surveillance Systems to electronically share information to eliminate the need for health care providers to make multiple reports to both states.
  • St. Louis River Water Quality Protection & Improvement – Wisconsin and Minnesota will save $1 million over the next 8 years by working on a single Total Maximum Daily Load project and sharing databases and emergency response resources in the St. Louis River area.
  • Promoting Tourism – Despite being economic competitors, the states identified opportunities to work together to promote both Minnesota and Wisconsin through international promotion, shared destination marketing, and packaging the region for earned media. Rather than competing with each other, these initiatives will reduce the cost and allow both states to reach a broader audience.

IT Systems

In many cases one state or the other is farther ahead in developing a particular system and may be able to support the other state. 

  • Residency and Homestead – Wisconsin and Minnesota plan to share data on residency to improve income tax collection and reduce fraud by indentifying homestead and residency claims more accurately.
  • Child Support Enforcement – Minnesota and Wisconsin will work to develop mutual access to each others child support systems in order to increase child support payments to children. The two states have 10,000 shared cases.  Based on a similar agreement between Wisconsin and Illinois, each state could save around $40,000 and increase support for children by $100,000 to $200,000.
  • Licensing Services – Minnesota and Wisconsin are examining Wisconsin providing licensing services for the building trades using an existing IT platform. This could allow Minnesota to avoid a multi-million dollar investment in a new IT system and provide revenue to defray costs for Wisconsin.


There are opportunities to improve government by making regulatory issues related to the border more customer-friendly.

  • Oversize Truck Permitting – About a third of oversize/overweight permits issued in either Wisconsin or Minnesota are destined for or originating in the other state.  If Wisconsin and Minnesota can streamline the system to allow carriers to get one permit for both states, it could save the industry over $2 million annually. 
  • Dairy Inspections – Minnesota and Wisconsin are discussing sharing inspection for milk tankers and issuing stickers that cover both states.
  • Cooperative Agreement for Child Welfare – Minnesota and Wisconsin are drafting an agreement that will, among other things, allow residential facilities in one state to be licensed for placements in both states.

Shared Resources

Some opportunities were identified to take advantage of an asset that exists in one state that can be shared by both states in order to be more efficient.

  • Communication Tower Sites – Wisconsin and Minnesota are in the process of building out communication infrastructure for state law enforcement at a cost of up to $900,000 per site.  By finding sites to share, the states can avoid some of these investments which could save millions of dollars.
  • Provision of Dairy Products – Wisconsin operates a dairy farm that the Department of Corrections is working on expanding.  Once scale is reached, Minnesota could save $250,000 buying dairy products from Wisconsin and Wisconsin could generate $250,000 of revenue to support operations.

The full Wisconsin Minnesota Collaboration Report is available here: www.wisgov.state.wi.us/docview.asp?docid=16272