The Golden Turkey Award: Silly and Wasteful Spending in State Government

Fall 2023 Winner — $700 Million New State Office Building

The Minnesota Legislature is about to build another new office building for themselves and once again, they’re doing it without ever taking a vote on the floor of the House or Senate. Most employees at the MN House of Representatives still haven’t fully returned to the office since COVID, but that’s not stopping them from building a “Taj Mahal of office buildings” costing double what they spent on the entire Capitol building renovations. Click here to read more about this boondoggle!


Second Place: $194.5 Million Northern Lights Express (a.k.a. Another Empty Train)

The Golden Turkey committee tried to get through the nomination process this year without choosing a rail or bus project, but those plans were derailed (get it?) when the legislature spent $194.5 million on a train from Minneapolis to Duluth called the Northern Lights Express. As Economist John Phelan says, “This train will end up being a very expensive way to ferry oxygen from one part of the state to another.” Click here to read more about this boondoggle.

Third Place: $12 Million Governor’s (Money Pit) Mansion

The first person Tim Walz called after he became governor in 2018 was his real estate agent in Mankato. Since the job of governor includes the perk of living in a historic mansion on Summit Avenue, he could ditch his mortgage and move the family to St. Paul. After comfortably winning a second term, Walz proposed a $7 million renovation to the mansion, which quickly ballooned to $12 million over the summer. Click here to keep reading about the renovations.

Fourth Place: $186,000 to Close the Flying Squirrel Research Gap We Never Knew Existed

When they tell you we can’t afford to “fully fund” schools, house the homeless, and take care of grandma in the nursing home, just respond with these three words: flying squirrel research. That’s right. Minnesota state government spent the entire $17.6 billion surplus, raised taxes an additional $9 billion, and still had $186,000 left over to study flying squirrels. Click here to learn more.

Hall of Fame: Past Golden Turkey Winners

Fall 2022 Winner — The Minnesota Department of Education: $250 Million to Free Food Fraud

Poor management and oversight by the Minnesota Department of Education of a pandemic-related food program won them the fourth annual Golden Turkey Award.

Also in 2022 — Southwest Light Rail boondoggle wins inaugural Golden Turkey Lifetime Achievement Award

At $500 million over budget and almost 10 years behind schedule, this is one of the biggest boondoggles we’ve ever seen and it’s going straight to the hall of fame!

Click here to read more about the light rail boondoggle.

Past Award Winners

$6 Million Empty Newport Transit Station: The Bus Stop Where No Buses Stop!

The Newport Transit Station opened in 2014 and cost taxpayers $6.45 million. A July 2017 article titled “The east metro’s most expensive park-and-ride station is also the least used” referred to the station as the “Hilton Hotel of bus stops.” At that time, the Met Council boasted ridership of eight passengers a day on the bus line serving the Newport Transit Station. In the post-COVID world, there are no buses serving this sprawling transit stop, which leaves the Newport Transit Station with an empty 150-car parking lot and a Golden Turkey Award.

$7.2 Million Goose Creek Rest Stop

Curved glass, Brazilian Ipe wood, a modern play area and “bathrooms fit for a fancy hotel,” according to WCCO-TV. The latest museum in Minneapolis? A million-dollar home on Lake Minnetonka? No, these architectural features belong to a rest area on Highway 35 between St. Paul and Duluth.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation used $7.2 million of trunk highway funding (money that could have gone to roads and bridges) to refurbish the Goose Creek Rest Stop. No one can answer why they used taxpayer money for such a fancy design, and transportation officials are vowing never to let it happen again. We took a tour. Click here to watch the video.

In the meantime, truck drivers and tourists will be “going in style” at this one-of-a-kind rest area. Since the Goose Creek Rest Stop won the Golden Turkey Award, we will petition to have a commemorative plaque installed in the lobby.

$6.9 Million Thankfully, Still Empty Tim Walz Morgue

Just as fear was subsiding over Gov. Tim Walz’s wild prediction of 50,000 Minnesota COVID deaths, he scared everyone all over again by buying a morgue for $6.9 million to house up to 5,100 bodies that he claimed would soon be piling up due to the pandemic.

The $6.9 million bought plenty of fear, with Walz officials evoking images of “shallow graves,” “full and overflowing” funeral homes and bodies “stacked in U-Hauls.”

Six months after purchasing the building the state is using it to store PPE instead of bodies, and that’s why it’s earned a Golden Turkey Award for wasteful spending.