But if Speaker Mickelson gets his tobacco tax, he might still have trouble competing with Minnesota, if our neighbors elect DFL candidate Rebecca Otto governor. Otto is advocating a $229-million plan to make the first two years of vo-tech and college free for every student in Minnesota:
You will get 2 years free college or vocational education at a Minnesota State college or university. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is comprised of 30 state colleges and 7 state universities with 54 campuses in 47 communities throughout Minnesota. Attendance for a two-year associate degree, the first two years of a four-year degree program, or a vocational program, at any Minnesota State institution will be tuition- and fee-free to all first-time college students (within 4 years of high school graduation) or to adults outsourced or automated out of a job. When you graduate you will have zero tuition or fee debt from the first two years [Rebecca Otto campaign, “The 15-5-2 Plan,” campaign website, retrieved 2017.11.03].
Note that this plan isn’t a targeted scholarship like South Dakota’s “Build Dakota Scholarship” giving free vo-tech to students going into fields with worker shortages. This plan is for every student who can maintain a 2.5 GPA (that’s all?), do 25 hours of community service during the scholarship period, participate in a mentoring program, and then live and work in Minnesota for four years after college.
Otto says her plan reflects the good sense shown by nine other developed nations:
A 2015 OECD report lists the countries with free college tuition as of 2013-14: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden and Turkey. In 2014, Germany eliminated tuition at its colleges and universities. Even Americans can now attend college for free in Germany. The OECD report says this decision “reflects these countries’ deeply rooted social values, such as equality of opportunity and social equity,” the values on which America was also founded [Otto, retrieved 2017.11.03].
Boy, we could all take up smoking and still not raise enough Mickelson tax money to compete with Otto’s tuition offer.
For those not going to college, Otto offers a separate economic incentive to move to Minnesota: raising the minimum wage a buck a year to $15 by 2023. Small businesses and non-Twin-Cities towns would get until 2025 to reach that Bernie Sanders benchmark.
At the rate we’ve been increasing our minimum wage since our Democratically initiated hike to $8.50 in 2015, by 2025, South Dakota’s minimum wage would be about $9.73.