Put the people of South Dakota before state government in Pierre.
That’s what Democratic leaders are urging after the Daugaard administration released budget numbers showing growing budget reserves and fewer investments in essential government services.
“South Dakota businesses, families, and farmers delivered these budget numbers, not the bureaucrats in Pierre,” noted House Democratic leader Bernie Hunhoff. “Our economy is strong because of our South Dakota work ethic, and because previous generations have made investments in the future. It’s time the Governor’s staff invest in communities across South Dakota instead of hoarding our tax dollars in Pierre.”
Growing budget surpluses come at a time that everyday South Dakotans are paying higher local property taxes and more burdensome fees to make up for state budget cuts hurting our children in school, families in need, and grandparents in nursing homes.
The big debate in Pierre isn’t how much money we spend but how we spend the scarce resources we have, said Hunhoff. “Democrats and Republicans in South Dakota don’t argue over how much to spend every year,” stated Hunhoff. “We argue over where to spend the same amount of money, and that has been particularly true in recent years with large state budget cuts offset by local property tax increases.”
Hunhoff said millions of dollars were wasted on international pipeline subsidies in a broken tax refund program that the legislature started to sunset in 2010. In 2011, the Daugaard administration expanded the old subsidy program for large corporate projects while cutting local schools $52 million. (That was HB 1230, which has been referred by citizens to a public vote in November.) And in 2012, Daugaard dedicated $5 million for an out-of-state company to attract out-of-state workers for South Dakota jobs. It was hidden in an appropriations bill by the Daugaard administration but is now being challenged in the courts.
“This is what happens when government squirrels away money,” Hunhoff said. “The bureaucrats in charge seem to think it belongs to them and their corporate buddies rather than the people of South Dakota.”
Representative Susan Wismer (D-Britton) urged Duagaard to tell the truth behind the budget numbers. “Living within our means is a virtue. So is truth telling,” said Wismer. “Our state’s citizens need to know the truth about the consequences of our budget choices. The fact that the administration chooses not to acknowledge the damage done to schools, nursing homes, universities, or our crumbling infrastructure does not mean the damage isn’t there. It just means Daugaard prefers to ignore skyrocketing tuition cost, health care premiums, and potholed roads across the state in favor of commending his misplaced priorities.”
Democratic Senate Leader Jason Frerichs said problems back home are going unattended because the Daugaard administration is hoarding resources. “Our roads go unfixed, our public safety suffers, and our children lack the resources they need in school to succeed because Daugaard is hoarding our tax dollars in Pierre,” said Frerichs. “Everyday South Dakotans are paying twice: first to make up for the state’s budget cuts and then to pay the state for hoarding their tax dollars. Daugaard should invest our tax dollars in our communities back home.”
Hunhoff and Frerichs said state government in Pierre has become increasingly out of touch with communities across the state. “Pierre looks out for Pierre when it should be leading the way in helping our communities build for the future,” Hunhoff said. “Instead, the Daugaard administration is shifting responsibilities for our children and seniors to the local level. That is already causing increases in property taxes and a decrease in the quality of our schools and services to children, especially children who face disadvantages.”
“This is not a budget to celebrate,” Frerichs said. “This is a wake-up call that we are stock-piling the peoples’ money while we are hurting our children in school, raising property taxes and sacrificing our future.”