The U.S. Energy Information Agency provides a remarkable interactive map showing the location of American energy resources, production facilities, and transmission infrastructure. This map shows wind power potential (brown is poor, light blue is good, dark blue is superb) and the locations of wind power plants in South Dakota:
West River is rich with windy ridges, as is a good slice of the state between the Missouri and James River valleys. The eastern slope of the Coteau des Prairies offers another windy blue zone running from Veblen to Elkton. But dense wind tower developments don’t crop up until you roll on to Minnesota and Iowa:
South Dakota offers a larger percentage of land with strong wind energy-generation potential than pretty much any other state. Yet we remain a relative turbine desert, one of the biggest stretches of untapped viable wind energy. We seem to be missing an opportunity.
South Dakota produces 0.3% of all U.S. energy, ranking 39th.
South Dakota ranks 8th for energy consumption per capita and 6th for energy expenditures per capita.
South Dakotans spend $4,499 per capita per year on energy. Minnesotans spend $3,553 per capita per year on energy. That’s $946 more each Minnesotan has than South Dakotans do to spend on Vikings tickets.
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.
The letter asked state officials to deliver the data within two weeks, and says that all information turned over to the commission will be made public. The letter does not explain what the commission plans to do with voter roll data, which often includes the names, ages and addresses of registered voters. The commission also asked for information beyond what is typically contained in voter registration records, including Social Security numbers and military status, if the state election databases contain it [Jessica Huseman, “Presidential Commission Demands Massive Amounts of State Voter Data,” ProPublica, 2017.06.29].
I contacted the office of Secretary of State Shantel Krebs to ask what if any of the data requested by the commission she would submit. Her assistant Jason Williams replied this afternoon by e-mail, “Secretary Krebs will not be responding or sharing voter information with the commission.”
Kobach and the commission can still obtain South Dakota’s statewide voter registration file, just as any other citizen can, by submitting the proper form and $2,500 to the state. South Dakota voters are required to include on the registration form either the last four digits of their Social Security number or their driver’s license number; if they have neither, they can still register at their county auditor’s office by signing a statement swearing they have neither (SDCL 12-4-5.4). However, voter registrations are public records, state law (SDCL 12-4-9) prohibits the secretary and other election record keepers from giving the public access to those driver’s license and Social Security numbers.
In other words, Kris Kobach, also a secretary of state (from Kansas), working under the authority if Donald Trump, has asked our secretary of state to violate the law. Her office’s response to my e-mail indicates Secretary Krebs will choose to follow the law.
“I will not hand over Minnesota voters’ sensitive personal information to the commission,” Simon, a Democrat, said in a statement Friday. “I have serious doubts about the commission’s credibility and trustworthiness. Its two co-chairs have publicly backed President Trump’s false and irresponsible claim that millions of ineligible votes were cast in the last election” [Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, “Minnesota Refuses to Hand over Voter Information to Presidential Commission,” Pioneer Press, 2017.06.30].
The commission is asking states to submit their voter files through a government file transfer website, which the Kobach letter cites as https://safe.amrdec.army.mil/safe/welcome.aspx. When I punch that URL into my Safari browser, I get this warning:
And on Firefox:
I head for the weekend feeling much more confident in Shantel Krebs’s ability to protect the integrity of our election system and our voter data than in Kris Kobach’s or Donald Trump’s.
Hey, legislators? Do you really want to call a special session to deal with water issues? Then how about dealing with the scourge of wet wipes clogging our sewers?
“Flushable” wipes are costing the City of Aberdeen an extra $50,750 this year. The fact that those moist tushy towelettes will swirl down the drain doesn’t mean they break down in the sewer; rather, they’ve been clogging Aberdeen’s lift stations and anaerobic digester. That means more work for city water crews and an accelerated maintenance schedule to clear the digester and prevent methane backups and blowups. The city will spend $50,750 this year that it didn’t plan to spend until next year.
According to the City of Wyoming [MN], INDA’s seven “flushability” tests fail to simulate real-life conditions in a sewer system. One test, the “slosh box” disintegration test, for example, places a wipe in a tank filled with two liters of water that rocks back and forth for 3 hours. The fibers that remain must then be able to pass through a 12.5-millimeter sieve. But a wet wipe often reaches a sewage pump in a couple of minutes, wastewater officials argue. And many sewer systems are not nearly as hard on the wipe as the agitation test. In 2013, Consumer Reports conducted an independent agitation test that none of the leading four wet wipes (Charmin, Scott, Cottonelle, and Equate) could pass. The wipes also failed to break apart after being beaten for 10 minutes in a kitchen stand mixer on the lowest speed [Matt Kessler, “Are Wet Wipes Wrecking the World’s Sewers?” The Atlantic, 2016.10.14].
So South Dakota legislators, since you’re all fired up to come to Pierre to talk fishing, let’s throw in some talk about essential water infrastructure. Pick up the Minnesota labeling restriction for wet wipes to make clear to consumers that, no, those comfy cleaners won’t magically dissolve in the sewer and will revisit us with higher sewer bills, if not a neighborhood sewer backup. Amend the sales tax statute to allow municipalities (local control!) to assess up to 20% sales tax on wet wipes, with funds dedicated to municipal waterworks maintenance. (Euromonitor International estimates U.S. sales of wet wipes reached $5.6 billion last year; assuming purchases proportional to population, and South Dakota sales might be $15 million, from which a 20% tax would generate $3 million for sewer work.)
But before we rush to legislate, maybe we should have legislators study the problem. We could send a committee to learn more about wet wipes at World of Wipes® (WOW), INDA’s international conference at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville June 12–15.
We tie with Alabama for 12th-highest percentage of general fund made up of federal funds. In Fiscal Year 2015, South Dakota state government paid 64.9% of its own bills. Minnesota paid 72.8% of its own way. The liberal bastions of California, Illinois, and Massachusetts all base lower percentages of their state budgets on federal funds than does South Dakota.
Among the six states bordering South Dakota, only Montana relied on Uncle Sam for more of its budget that we did. We actually pay a smaller percentage of our welfare budget with federal money, but we are the second-most reliant state on federal education dollars and the ninth-most reliant on federal road dollars.
In Minnesota, the vast majority of children under age 2 get vaccinated against measles. But state health officials said most Somali-American 2-year-olds have not had the vaccine, about 6 out of 10. As the outbreak spreads, that statistic worries health officials, including Michael Osterholm, the director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
“It is a highly concentrated number of unvaccinated people,” he said. “It is a potential kind of gas-and-match situation.”
…Somali community leaders are in lockstep with the Minnesota Department of Health, trying to knock down the pseudoscience behind the myth that vaccines can lead to autism. But others are not, even as the outbreak spreads.
A weekend meeting in Minneapolis organized by anti-vaccine groups attracted dozens of Somali-Americans. Some shouted down physicians, including pediatrician Stacene Maroushek, who showed up to try to convince them vaccinations are critical to their community.
Both Minnesota Republican and Democratic leaders agree being in the black on a state budget is better than the alternative. Minnesota has had four years of budget surpluses, which followed five-and-a-half years of budget deficits.
“It’s good news,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa). “It makes it easier to balance the budget.”
…Minnesota’s economy has continued to grow slowly, adding jobs and economic output over the last several years. In 2015, its gross state product grew 1.9 percent — 0.6 percentage points slower than the U.S. as a whole.
In part because Minnesota has a tight labor market — only about one person to fill every available open job — the number of hours Minnesotans work and their wages have seen an increase.
When Minnesotans make more money, so does the state, as income tax is one of the biggest sources of state revenue. Income tax revenue projections for the 2018-19 biennium are $24 billion, up $274 million from November’s prediction.
I keep thinking of my neighbor Larry Spitzer, who asks why we would ever want to be like Minnesota. I think some Legislative appropriators could give a good answer to that question this weekend at the crackerbarrels.
But as I cruise around my neighborhood looking at older houses that could sue some love, it occurs to me that no supply-side effort will do as much to make quality, affordable housing as a solid demand-side effort—i.e., raising South Dakota’s wages so that more people can afford to build new houses and fix up the houses they are in. Consider how much the guys building houses make. The U.S. Department of Labor provides the following salary data for construction workers:
Our construction workers start out on par with the national average for entry-level construction laborer pay but fall behind as they work up the pay ladder. Our guys in the middle are 14% behind the national median. Our hardhats hit a ceiling that the top construction laborers bust right through elsewhere: South Dakota’s high-end construction salary is only 61% of what the best construction workers can earn nationwide.
Getting specific, construction workers in Minnesota make out much better:
Minnesota’s builders make 18% more at the low end, 45% more in the middle, and 90% more at the top than their counterparts in South Dakota.
After taxes, the median-wage Minnesota construction worker still has 34% more money left in his pocket than the median-wage South Dakota construction worker. Factor in cost of living, and the Minnesota builder can buy 20% more stuff than the South Dakota builder. Even the poor grunt hammering away in the extravagant and expensive Twin Cities would still get 15% more purchasing power from Minnesota’s median construction wage than his South Dakota counterpart. That’s thousands of dollars more that a Minnesota worker can spend on new shingles, windows, and paint, put toward a down payment, or throw into the salary calculation to escape a costly mortgage insurance requirement and keep more money in his pocket for maintaining his new house.
The South Dakota Housing Development Authority does good work. But they wouldn’t have to work as hard if South Dakota didn’t short everyone else who’s working hard.
South Dakota and Minnesota have increased their minimum wages over the last couple of years, but neither has taken the great leap of Seattle, which raised its minimum wage from $9.47 to $11 on April 1, 2015. Seattle companies employing 500 or more workers in the U.S. must reach $15 by January 1, 2017; smaller companies must reach that minimum wage by 2021.
As one of my colleagues wrote last week, the “unemployment rate in the city of Seattle – the tip of the spear when it comes to minimum wage experiments – has now hit a new cycle low of 3.4%.” Meanwhile, a University of Washington study on the minimum wage law found little or no evidence of job losses or business closings.
Yes, the man wearing this shirt at a Trump rally in Minnesota Sunday is deplorable:
Journalism is a vital First Amendment activity that has always protected us from domestic tyranny far more effectively than any Second Amendment activity. I will never suggest that practitioners of Second Amendment rights should be hanged; I deplore the suggestion that practitioners of the First Amendment should be lynched. But such are the anti-American sentiments inspired by the campaign of Donald J. Trump.
“Here in Minnesota, you can see firsthand with problems with … refugees,” Trump said, noting the large number of Somalis in the state. “You see the recent terrorist knife attack in St. Cloud? Hillary supports totally open borders.”
…DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin strongly objected to Trump’s criticism of the state’s East African community.
Trump will lose, not just because he is deplorable, but because Hillary Clinton knows far better than he how to run a political campaign:
Flexing its organizational superiority in Minnesota, the DFL Coordinated Campaign said it knocked on 40,000 doors in the state on behalf of Clinton during Trump’s 40-minute speech [Sherry, 2016.11.06].
We won’t out-argue deplorables like Trump. We will out-organize, outnumber, and out-vote them.