Democratic candidate for governor Billie Sutton starts off his economic development plan with the one phrase his Republican opponents refuse to mention when talking workforce: raising wages.
But, but, but, you say, government can’t raise everybody’s wages. Maybe not, but smart government can find ways to raise wages for teachers and health care providers:
Folks who spend the time and money to get bachelor’s and master’s degrees aren’t getting the same return on investment as those with associate degrees. South Dakota has some of the lowest wages in the nation for professionals like nurses and teachers. Billie recognizes that many of our young and highly educated students are leaving the state because they don’t see the jobs or wages they need to build a strong and responsible future for their families. Billie knows economic capital trails human capital as long as South Dakota prioritizes creating jobs that pay reasonable wages. His work to raise teacher pay, utilize federal dollars available to expand healthcare coverage, and increase provider reimbursement rates to free-up more money for nurses wages are examples of the big-picture approach Billie will use to close South Dakota’s wage gap. There’s room for all levels of education in our economy, and a stronger South Dakota is one where hard work actually pays off [Sutton for Governor, “Building a Stronger South Dakota: A Plan for a Stronger South Dakota Economy,” 2018.05.17].
Workforce doesn’t materialize out of thin air; recruiting talent means offering the wages that talent is worth. Government can keep working to raise teacher pay. It can also do smart things like expanding Medicaid to ease budget constraints on hospitals and the state and free up cash to pay nurses.
Sutton and other candidates for governor could stand to ad a plank from Ohio Governor John Kasich’s platform. Governor Kasich just created an “Office of Opportunities for New Americans”:
The office within the Ohio Department Services Agency will help legal immigrants obtain job skills and employment and support their transition into local communities. The program is directed at legal immigrants, but officials do not plan to ask for paperwork to identify potential undocumented immigrants who may seek assistance.
…While many Ohio immigrants arrive with in-demand job skills and top-flight education, others need help the state can provide, Kasich said. “We need to make sure they have a place to go where they are not lost.”
Immigrants bring “great vitality and energy” and are an important component of the state workforce, the governor said. Columbus’ Somali community, one of the largest in the country, can benefit from the new office, Kasich suggested [Randy Ludlow, “John Kasich Creates Office Dedicated to Helping Immigrants,” Governing, 2018.05.17].
Roll out better wages, and roll out the Welcome Wagon to the new Americans who’ve cast their lots with our great country—that’s how you build a 21st-century workforce.