A recent story in the national newspaper, USA Today, declared Minnesota the best-run state in the United States. The story was based on research by 24/7 Wall St., an online financial news company that compared economic indicators, budget allocations and balance sheets in addition to a range of social measures in each state.

Gov. Mark Dayton was quick to take credit for the ranking and he deserves some of that credit since he has been leading the state for nearly seven years during a time when the state has steadily improved in the rankings. The state has a near-perfect credit rating and sound fiscal management has allowed the state to save more than most states. Minnesota also has a stable long-term outlook with the 13th lowest unemployment rate and the sixth lowest poverty rate.

However, no one person and no political party can take all the credit for a strong showing. There are always many factors involved in rankings because so many factors are outside of government’s, or any one entity’s, control.

In a way, each one of us can take some credit for the impressive standing of Minnesota, which has become routine in poll after national poll. Individual behavior is just as, if not more, important than public policy.

In the financial rankings, the researchers noted that Minnesota has a strong tax base, bringing in about $4,400 a year per resident in taxes, more than all but four other states, which allows state government to save more.

In contrast, the worst-run state, Louisiana, like other poorly managed states, has little revenue to work with as the state collects just $2,071 per person in tax revenue, well below the per capita average of $2,821 for all states.

Looking at the top and bottom states may lead to the conclusion this study is all based on taxes.

However, Minnesota displaced North Dakota, a low tax state, from the top spot. North Dakota is still in the top 10 and its fall had more to do with a downturn in the oil boom than a change in state government or political philosophy.

Also, Illinois, at No. 43 on the list, shows that high taxes don’t necessarily mean a sound government. All that tax money Illinois brings in doesn’t help the people of the state. No state has a lower credit rating as years of budgetary mismanagement have left the state unable to pay for many services while also accumulating billions of dollars in debt.

Although not everyone is happy to pay high taxes, the majority of citizens in Minnesota feel the state is handling their tax money well. A recent survey by Minnesota Public Radio found that 59 percent of residents agreed with the question, “Does Minnesota deliver good value for its taxes?”

One thing Minnesota has that the majority of other states don’t have is a divided party government. The governor is a Democrat and the two legislative bodies are controlled by Republicans right now. Most states — 33 at last count — are dominated by just one party. Although partisan politics is becoming increasingly rancorous in Minnesota, the fluid nature of party power — the state Senate, for example, flipped from DFL to Republican in the last election — keeps our politicians more responsive to constituents.

Since Minnesota traditionally has the highest voter turnout in the nation, individuals do their job in showing up to make choices on who represents them in St. Paul.

Still, the rankings aren’t just about political or policy issues. A press release by Dayton on the financial rankings also noted that Minnesota is America’s top state for business, according to CNBC, the second-strongest state in the Nation, according to Politico, the top state on the job creation index, according to Gallup, the best state for women, according to Wallet Hub, the best state to retire in, according to AARP, and the best state for kids, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Minnesota scores high in all types of polls, except weather, of course.

Minnesota consistently ranks in the top 10 healthiest states in the United States, according to annual reports of the United Health Foundation.  The ranking isn’t just about access to medical care or public policy, but also includes individual traits — Minnesotans are fifth highest in physical activity and the fourth highest insured people — as well as societal factors — the state has a low rate of violent crime and few children in poverty.

Education Week ranks Minnesota in the top 10 for best schools. Although per pupil spending is in line with the rest of the nation, the distribution of school funding is more equitable than most states, meaning there isn’t such a gap between the best- and worst-funded schools. Also a strong home foundation, which includes educated parents, is a factor.

Pick a topic and it’s likely that Minnesota is listed favorably compared to other states, whether it’s volunteerism, safety, divorce rate, livability or another category.

It’s no wonder then that Minnesota was also found to be the happiest state in the union, according to Wallethub, a financial website. Minnesota came out on top by a healthy margin in a study that looked at detailed factors in three broad categories: emotional and physical well-being, work environment, and community and environment.

The study by Wallethub found wealth isn’t necessarily an indicator of happiness. Good economic, emotional, physical and social health are all keys to a well-balanced and fulfilled life.

One poll that Minnesota would figure to score low in is weather, since the state has such severe winters and too-short summers. Yet, the top poll on weather pulled up through a search engine didn’t confirm these worst expectations. A totally unscientific poll on this subjective topic placed Minnesota at a respectable No. 22, sandwiched between New York and Maryland, for the states with the worst weather.

It’s a mystery how Minnesota can score so well in so many areas. We may not feel as special as all the polls make us out to be, but we should appreciate the fact that we live in a state that can score so high in so many studies.

So, as the dark, cold winter takes its grip, take solace that we live in a well-run state full of healthy, educated, happy people. That’s something to celebrate as we turn the page on a new year.