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SDDP Executive Director Responds to State of the State Address →

SDDP Executive Director Responds to State of the State Address

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Democratic Party released the following statement from Executive Director Sam Parkinson in response to today’s State of the State Address by Governor Dennis Daugaard:

“40 years of one-party rule has led to one budget shortfall after another, a state government plagued by scandal and which regularly overturns the expressed will of the voters, a state educational system falling behind our neighbors, and a state economy where working families are struggling to get ahead. South Dakotans deserve better leadership than they have received from the Republican establishment in Pierre. South Dakota Democrats are fighting for a state government and a state economy that works for everyone, not those at the top, like the powerful and well-connected special interests who have way too much power in Pierre. It’s time for a change in leadership; this November, South Dakotans will remember who is fighting for them and who is fighting for the special interests.”

Here’s a look at how the Republican leadership in Pierre has failed the people of South Dakota:

  • Working families are having to work harder to make ends meet, and many are falling behind.
    • SD is top in the nation in multiple-jobholding rates, according to most recent estimates available – We’re at 9.1% and the national average is 4.9%
    • We rank second in the nation in the percentage of our families where both spouses are in the workforce – We’re at 61.7% and the national average is 51.2%.
    • We’re 42nd in the nation for median earnings for men and 41st for women, and women in South Dakota earn about $10,000 less than men on average.
    • We have the 7th highest percentage of our elderly population below the poverty level.
    • We have an infant mortality rate higher than the national average.
    • South Dakota has the largest employment gap between American Indians and Whites in the nation.
      • In 2016, the employment rate of White adults in South Dakota was 35.2 percentage points higher than for American Indian adults.
      • South Dakota ranked 49th in the nation for proportion of American Indian adults working at just 45.2% in 2016. By comparison, 80.4% of White adults were at work—the second highest proportion in the nation.
  • State government isn’t working as it should.
    • There’s a profound lack of accountability, and the state isn’t making the smart investments to support an innovative and dynamic economy.
    • SD has been ranked 3rd-most corrupt state in the nation.
    • SD has been named one of the 10 least innovative states in the nation by Forbes.
  • Under our current system of politics as usual, our economy is sputtering.
    • Our low unemployment rate (3 %) can’t overcome other fundamental weaknesses:
      • South Dakota’s economy shrank 0.3% from Quarter 1 to Quarter 2 in 2017. Iowa was the only other state with a negative GDP (-0.7%) in Q2 of 2017.
      • South Dakota’s economy has now shrunk in three (3) consecutive quarters (-2.9 in Q4 of 2016, -5.9 in Q1 of 2017, and -0.3 in Q2 of 2017).
      • Since 2011, Gov. Daugaard’s first year in office, through 2016, SD’s per capita GDP growth has been 0.2% (an average of 0.04% a year).
        • During that period the overall per capita GDP growth in the United States has been 6% – 30 times faster than South Dakota’s.
        • The only neighboring state which has underperformed South Dakota during this period is Wyoming.
      • In 2016, South Dakota’s per capita personal income grew just 0.4%, below the national average of 2.5% in metro areas and 1.0% non-metro areas.
      • Per capita personal income fell in 45 South Dakota counties in 2016 and rose in only 21 counties. County charthere.

Source: The Census Bureau, unless otherwise another hyperlink is provided.

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SDDP Responds to Governor Daugaard’s Budget Address →

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Democrats Respond to Governor Daugaard’s Budget Address

SIOUX FALLS – The South Dakota Democratic Party released the following statement from Executive Director Sam Parkinson in response to today’s Budget Address by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

“Policy failures and a lack of leadership from Gov. Daugaard and the Republican majority in Pierre have caused South Dakota’s economy to sink to the second-to-last place in the nation, which, in turn, has caused yet another bleak budget outlook for our state government. And, yet again, the Governor’s Address was long on the details of the challenges facing the state in slow revenue growth, but short on the details of what, if anything, he might do to promote economic development and growth.

“This Legislative Session, Democrats will continue to promote pro-growth policies to help create an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. Democrats understand that more money in the pockets of average South Dakotans means more money spent in our communities, and a more stable state budget outlook. The continued weakness of our economy makes it more clear than ever that this is a time for new, Democratic leadership in state government and not the same old way of doing business that got us here.”

Here’s a look at some of the weak economic performance numbers in South Dakota resulting from failed Republican leadership:

  • South Dakota’s economy shrank 0.3% from Quarter 1 to Quarter 2 this year. Iowa was the only other state with a negative GDP (-0.7%) in Q2.
    • South Dakota’s economy has now shrunk in three (3) consecutive quarters (-2.9 in Q4 of 2016, -5.9 in Q1 of 2017, and -0.3 in Q2 of 2017)
  • Since 2011, Gov. Daugaard’s first year in office, through 2016, SD’s per capita GDP growth has been 0.2% (an average of 0.04% a year)
    • During that period the overall per capita GDP growth in the United States has been 6% – 30 times faster than South Dakota’s.
    • The only neighboring state which has underperformed South Dakota during this period is Wyoming.
  • In 2016, South Dakota’s per capita personal income grew just 0.4%, below the national average of 2.5% in metro areas and 1.0% non-metro areas.

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SDDP Statement on the Republican Tax Plan →

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SDDP Statement on the Republican Tax Plan

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The South Dakota Democratic Party released the following statement from Executive Director Sam Parkinson in response to the tax plan released today by Republicans in the U.S. House:

“Today House Republicans released a tax bill that provides massive tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations while simultaneously cutting the health care, education, and mortgage deductions middle-class South Dakota families rely on – as well as blowing a big hole in the deficit. We urge Rep. Kristi Noem and Senators Thune and Rounds to vote against this awful plan, and work with Democrats to develop a tax plan that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and large corporations.”

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Republican Budget Cuts Hurt South Dakota Families →

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Republican Budget Cuts Hurt South Dakota Families

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The South Dakota Democratic Party released the following statement from Executive Director Sam Parkinson in response to House Republicans narrowly passing a budget bill this morning:

“This Republican budget – voted for last week by Senators Mike Rounds and John Thune, and voted for today by Rep. Kristi Noem – takes money out of the pockets of hardworking South Dakota families and gives it to the top 1 percent. It will make drastic cuts to vital programs like Medicare and Medicaid to give huge tax cuts to wealthy corporations and millionaire and billionaires. Even worse, these tax cuts aren’t paid for. The Republican budget will increase the budget deficit by at least $1.5 trillion, which will in turn be used by Republicans as an excuse to make even deeper cuts into programs that help South Dakota families.

“But while Republicans continue to fight to give more and more to the wealthy and special interests, Democrats will continue fighting to give all working families the economic security and opportunity they deserve.”

Here is a closer look at how the Republican budget will hurt South Dakota families:

MEDICARE:

  • The Republican budget calls for nearly $500 billion in cuts to Medicare.
  • In South Dakota, 156,127 people who rely on Medicare are at risk.
  • Medicare beneficiaries make up 18 percent of South Dakota’s total population, including:
    • Seniors: 87 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in South Dakota are seniors.
    • People with disabilities: 13 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in South Dakota have a disability.
    • Women: 58 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in South Dakota are women.
    • Rural communities: Nearly one in four Medicare beneficiaries nationwide live in rural areas.

MEDICAID:

  • The Republican budget calls for more than $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid – an even deeper cut than Republicans proposed in their health care repeal bills.
  • In South Dakota 109,100 people who rely on Medicaid are at risk.
  • Medicaid beneficiaries make up 14 percent of South Dakota’s total population, including:
    • Adults: 1 in 12 nonelderly adults in South Dakota.
    • Children: 1 in 3 children in South Dakota.
    • Seniors: 1 in 2 nursing home residents in South Dakota.
    • People with disabilities: 2 in 5 people with disabilities in South Dakota.
    • Women: 65 percent of nonelderly Medicaid beneficiaries in South Dakota are women.
    • Rural communities: Medicaid covers one in four nonelderly rural residents nationwide.
    • Veterans: 4,000 veterans in South Dakota rely on Medicaid services.

NUTRITION & INCOME SECURITY PROGRAMS:

  • The Republican budget calls for deep cuts to programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, and Social Security.
  • SNAP helps 96,000 South Dakota families and workers stay out of poverty and keep healthy food on the table.
    • Almost 75 percent of SNAP participants in South Dakota are in families with children.
    • More than 48 percent of SNAP participants in South Dakota are in working families.
    • Almost 27 percent of SNAP participants in South Dakota are in families with members who are seniors or have a disability.
  • In 2016, SNAP benefits added $145 million to South Dakota’s economy, because families spend their SNAP benefits at local grocery stores and other retailers.
  • 21,041 South Dakotans rely on Social Security Disability Insurance, which workers pay into so they can support their families if they develop a severe disability.

TAX CUTS FOR WEALTHY:

  • By passing their budget, Republicans have cleared the first hurdle in moving forward to a vote on a tax bill that has been written in secret and few have seen. If the Republican tax plan were to pass:
  • The richest one percent of South Dakota residents would receive 62 percent of the state’s total tax cuts in 2018. These households are projected to earn at least $589,600 next year and would see an average tax cut of $129,120 in 2018.
  • In stark contrast, middle-class South Dakotans would only receive 5 percent of the state’s total tax cuts. These households would only get an average tax cut of $500 in 2018.
  • Millionaires alone would get 54 percent of the state’s total tax cuts. Their average tax cut would be 532 times the tax cut middle class families would get.
  • 7 percent of South Dakota households would face a tax hike if the GOP tax plan was in effect in 2018.

OTHER CUTS:

  • CUTS TO EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Nationwide, the Republican budget cuts close to $200 billion from services like Pell Grants and student loan assistance over the next decade.

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South Dakota Democrat Legislators Call for Increased Teacher Pay at Blue Ribbon Task Force Meeting

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Immediate Release: Wednesday, August 19, 2015

South Dakota Democrat Legislators Call for Increased Teacher Pay at South Dakota Blue Ribbon Task Force Meeting

Pierre, SD (August 19, 2015)- Democrat Members of the South Dakota Legislature highlighted the importance of increasing teacher pay in South Dakota at Wednesday’s Blue Ribbon Task Force Meeting in Pierre. Democrat Legislators on the Task Force, Representative Paula Hawks of Hartford, Senator Troy Heinert of Mission, and Senator Billie Sutton of Burke, called on other Legislators to recognize the impact low teacher salaries have on education in South Dakota and South Dakota’s teacher shortage.

At Wednesday’s meeting, statistical data was provided showing that public sentiment in South Dakota supports the increase in teacher pay advocated for by South Dakota Democrats long before the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force was established. Senator Billie Sutton presented Task Force members with survey results showing 77 percent of South Dakota voters believe South Dakota teachers are doing an excellent or good job and 79 percent of South Dakota voters believe teacher pay in South Dakota public schools is inadequate. Senator Sutton says, “The voters agree; teacher pay is falling far short.  We have an obligation to support our schools, teachers and, most importantly, support our students.  Every student needs a great classroom teacher and many will not have that if South Dakota fails to address the issue of pay.”

Representative Paula Hawks, a former teacher and mother of three, says, “South Dakota cannot continue to attract and retain quality teachers to educate our children when our teacher pay ranks last in the Nation. When our teachers suffer, our children suffer. And when our children suffer, our entire State suffers. South Dakota can do better than this, and I am hopeful that the efforts of the Task Force will result in solutions, not just more empty promises to educators and our children.”

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SHOT/CHASER: Republicans Deny Teacher Shortage

SHOT: Survey: 30 Percent of SD Teaching Positions Open; Keloland.com, 6.19.2014

CHASER: SD Senate Rejects Resolution on Teacher Shortage; Rapid City Journal, 1.22.2014

It’s official – if you ever had any doubt: The South Dakota Republican Party is out of touch. When it comes to the crisis in education in fact, they have lost grasp of reality. Case in point: the critical teaching shortage facing South Dakota schools. South Dakota already had the lowest paid teachers in the country. But when the state legislature convened a summer study on the topic and recommended a bipartisan resolution to merely acknowledge the obvious, Republican leaders killed the resolution. Now, the obvious emerges again with the summer flying by: 30 precent of our schools can’t find teachers across all subjects, including the science & math fields Republicans are always extolling. It leads us to wonder:

How can we fulfill our children’s promise if we can’t even find the teachers to educate, train, and inspire them in the classroom?
Teacher Shortage

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Mike Rounds on education – ready for a tax increase?

US Senate candidate Mike Rounds wants to eliminate the US Department of Education. But guess what that would cost SD? South Dakota would lose $191 million a year. Ready for a big tax increase? Making up that money would require  a 38% increase in our sales tax. Mike Rounds

Just another proposal from Mike Rounds –  the Governor who let college tuition rates skyrocket, student debt balloon, and wages plummet during his administration…

Shot: Rounds: Time to eliminate US Department of Ed. Scott Waltman, Aberdeen American News

“It’s time, Mike Rounds told Brown County Republicans Thursday, to get rid of the U.S. Department of Education….A Republican created the federal Department of Education, but it’s time for Republican members of Congress to eliminate it, Rounds said.

Chaser: How about a really, really big tax increase? Bob Mercer, Pure Pierre Politics

“One of the candidates for federal office said last night he wants to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. For the coming school year, that would be a loss of $191.9 million to the state Department of Education; the money for the most part gets passed down to local schools and cooperatives. Replacing that sliver of federal aid alone would require approximately 1.5 cents of additional state sales tax.”

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Out of Touch Trio

South Dakota Democrats have always aspired to expand opportunity and extend equality to all South Dakotans, whether we’re fighting to make college more affordable for young people, demanding equal pay for women, securing the agricultural safety net for family farmers, or protecting the right to vote in Indian country. These policies stem from our South Dakota values. We reward work, respect women, and invest in all South Dakotans.

That’s why the 2014 Republican ticket looks so out of touch today. Former Governor Mike Rounds, Congresswoman Kristi Noem, and Governor Dennis Daugaard. With respect to all South Dakota’s values, these three fall woefully short. Let us count just some of the ways:

Governor Mike Rounds: Candidate for US Senate

–Rounds displayed very little vision and indeed took dramatic steps backward for the state.  In education alone, the best ticket to a brighter future for our children, funding under Rounds was cut from 39 to 31 percent a drop of almost 25 percent in just eight short years which helped sink South Dakota to last in the nation in teacher pay and last in the nation in per pupil funding.

–A higher percentage of South Dakota college students carry massive debt coming out of college than students do anywhere else in the nation.  This is in no small part because on Rounds’ watch, college tuition rose over 50 percent in just eight years. That’s probably why South Dakota freshman and sophomore college students began dropping out of college faster than freshman and sophomore students anywhere in America during Rounds’ administration.

–Rounds strongly opposed birth to three and pre-Kindergarten programs even though South Dakota children are some of the most threatened in the nation and study after study indicates that these two programs have been wildly successful wherever and whenever they have been implemented in other states. As a result, South Dakota regularly ranked at the bottom of states in its commitment to our youngest and most vulnerable children during the Rounds’ Administration.

–On Rounds’ watch, South Dakota fell to the bottom and ranked last in wages of all states in America, and South Dakota rose to the top of states whose people must hold two or more jobs just to make ends meet.

–Poverty rose over 20 percent in the state with South Dakota’s children and seniors being hit the hardest during Rounds’ administration.  The consequences of Rounds’ cuts to Medicaid were that on his watch, poverty rates in South Dakota exploded as did food insecurity among the people of South Dakota with over 20 percent of our kids now going to bed hungry. Now, shamefully seven of the poorest counties in America now are South Dakota counties.

–Rounds enacted the most restrictive reproductive choice laws our country had ever seen only to watch the voters of South Dakota rebuff him twice.

–Always a fan of oil companies but much less so a fan of ethanol, Rounds attempted to raise taxes on ethanol during his tenure which, had he been able to do, would have severely undermined this vital and burgeoning South Dakota industry.  Meanwhile, Rounds pushed through over $30 million in taxpayer giveaways to the foreign oil company TransCanada to build a controversial and dangerous tar sands oil pipeline in eastern South Dakota that they were going to build anyway.  In states like Nebraska where the pipeline was built as well, the state did not give TransCanada a dime.

–On Rounds’ watch, the state seemed to stockpile state owned and operated airplanes for Rounds’ and his elite government cronies to use.  Rounds, who personally loves to fly, and did so frequently on questionable and personal business, had no problem with the state owning multiple airplanes when surrounding states were selling theirs’ off – including Nebraska (and even states like California).

Governor Dennis Daugaard: Candidate for Governor

–Daugaard enacted $127 million in savage budget cuts to education, healthcare, and essential government services after denying the state had a budget crisis during his campaign. As a result, property taxes increased, class sizes mushroomed, and schools closed across South Dakota.

–Speaking of schools, Daugaard’s administration passed legislation to impose one-size-fits-all school mandates, increase student testing, and remove teacher tenure without any proof that such efforts improve student outcomes. What happened to that legislation? Voters put it on the ballot and rejected it in 2012.

–Voters rejected another part of Daugaard’s agenda too. At the same time Daugaard said we had no money for students or seniors, he crafted a $20 million a year giveaway to big business at the expense of schools and nursing homes. Democrats said enough is enough and put his economic development plan on the ballot, which voters rejected handily.

–Daugaard opposes a Medicaid expansion which would bring over $300 million a year into South Dakota, expand access to healthcare especially in rural areas and Indian country, and generate hundreds of new jobs at little to no cost to the state.

–Daugaard’s administration failed to file charges against long term insurance companies they knew were bilking seniors across South Dakota.

–Daugaard has been mired in an unresolved controversy about the Indian Child Welfare Act in South Dakota after the organization he led while Lt. Governor profited from the high placement rate of Native Americans into white foster families.

Congresswoman Kristi Noem: Candidate for US House

–Noem missed 16 of 20 agriculture committee meetings at the same time the House was considering a new farm bill, the most important piece of legislation for South Dakota’s dominant agriculture industry. (Speaking of a farm bill, where is the House on that anyway?)

–Noem wants to end Medicare’s guaranteed benefits and affordable medical coverage for over 600,000 South Dakotans age 54 and younger & deny preventative care benefits for 133,000 current Medicare beneficiaries.

–Even though women still earn only 80 cents for every dollar men earn, Noem voted against consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure erasing that disparity by closing loopholes and imposing effective, strict penalties on employers who discriminate based on gender.

–Noem’s budget agenda also means fewer kids in education programs like Head Start, fewer teachers  for our students at a time state support for education is plummeting, and fewer investments in public safety and crime prevention across SOuth Dakota.

–Noem’s budget agenda also affects our national defense budget in South Dakota: 410 Army employees, 812 Air Force employees, 3 Navy employees, and 55 Defense Civilian employees will lose a combined salary of $4,281,000 as a result of sequestration.

South Dakota deserves elected officials who stand up for South Dakota values. Do you want to send this out of touch trio home in 2014? Help us expand our growing troop of grassroots volunteers. Pledge your support today!

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Governor Daugaard’s “Anything But Education” Agenda

South Dakota Democratic legislators are looking for some accountability after Governor Daugaard’s $5 million Manpower giveaway is failing to meet expectations. Read the press release below to learn more about the issue.

Governor Daugaard appropriated $5 million for employee recruiter Manpower to fill 1000 open jobs across South Dakota within three years. More than a year into the program, Manpower has filled 83. And now the Governor wants to expand the program to other recruiters.

What’s at stake is the very role of state government. Is it our job to subsidize Manpower when we can’t even fulfill our basic obligations to K-12 schools and higher education? Should fund private recruiters going out-of-state to fill open SD jobs or invest in South Dakotans to prepare them for open jobs across our state? Should tax dollars from Custer subsidize job placement in Sioux Falls?

South Dakota’s schools are already struggling to afford the cost of Career and Tech Education programs that train our students for the kind of jobs we sorely need. Tech schools have responded to persistent underfunding by raising tuition between 5% and 10% year after year after year. Governor Daugaard’s approach, however, seems to be the “Anything But Education” agenda. And South Dakotans are losing out as a result.

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For Immediate Release: Wednesday, May 29, 2013

SD Legislators Ask Governor Daugaard for More Information on Manpower contract

In an official letter to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, members of the South Dakota Legislature’s appropriations committees are asking for more information after disappointing results of a controversial employee recruitment plan are forcing Governor Daugaard to overhaul his original employee recruiting plan.

“Governor Daugaard dedicated $5 million to employee recruiter Manpower to fill 1000 open jobs within three years. One year later, they’ve filled 83 jobs that we know of,” says Sen. Billie Sutton (D-Burke), a member of the senate appropriations committee. “I hope Governor Daugaard’s administration will help us answer our questions about the program, so we can protect taxpayers and fill open jobs across South Dakota.”

In 2012, Governor Daugaard asked for a $5 million appropriation for employee recruiter Manpower to fill 1000 open jobs across South Dakota within three years. The terms of the contract provided a monthly $49,000 payment and additional payment for every job placed. Testimony from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development during the 2013 legislative session indicates only 83 jobs have been placed so far. Now, the state plans to change the employee recruiting plan according to an article titled “State tweaks recruiting program” in the Sioux Falls Business Journal.

With expenses mounting and potentially little to show for it, Rep. Susan Wismer (D-Britton) says taxpayers deserve to know more about the program and the Daugaard administration’s changes. “The Manpower appropriation came at a time our tech schools are raising tuition and K-12 schools are cutting Career and Tech Ed programs,” says Wismer. “We need to scrutinize every dollar we spend, so we’re protecting taxpayers and preparing South Dakotans for open jobs right now.”

Wismer and Sutton say Governor Daugaard’s office has helped answer questions about the Manpower program before, and in light of the recent changes to the employee recruiting plan, they expect Governor Daguaard to be forthcoming with all their questions again.

A copy of the letter sent to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development can be found attached. The text of the letter is below:

Commissioner Pat Costello
Governor’s Office of Economic Development
711 E. Wells Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501
Dear Commissioner Costello:

In light of recent changes to Governor Daugaard’s Manpower employee recruiting plan made public in the May 21st, 2013, Sioux Falls Business Journal article titled “State Tweaks Recruiting Plan,” we would appreciate very much your addressing some questions we have about the existing employee recruitment plan and the changes outlined in the story. We understand that it may take some time to gather this information, but we would appreciate your response as soon as possible.

What is the total cost of the program to date, counting state dollars only?

How many jobs have been placed through the program per month since the inception of the program?

Including the monthly fee paid to Manpower, what would be the total cost per job the state has spent on this program to date?

Could you list the locations, geographically and by occupation, of the placements to date?

What is the average wage of jobs placed?

What percent of the placements have been successful in remaining filled for the required time to earn 100% of the fee, and what is that period of time?

What employers have worked with Manpower to place employees through this program? What progress do you feel has been made with those employers in advancing their approach to hiring, e.g. using placement agencies, accepting the fees they charge, and furthering their understanding of the benefits placement agencies can offer? Do you feel any of those employers will continue to use placement agencies to fill positions without the benefit of this fee sharing program?

How much money was spent on defending the lawsuit by the placement agencies concerning the original Manpower contract?

Whose office paid for the legal defense?

Are taxpayers still making the $49,000 monthly payment to Manpower?

What are the state’s continuing commitments to Manpower?

Under the changes outlined in the article, what are the new terms of the contracts for Manpower and any new participating employee recruiting companies?

As members of the appropriations committee, with this information we hope to ease taxpayers’ minds that their taxes are being used appropriately in this new program. Governor Daugaard dedicated significant state resources towards the Manpower recruiting plan with the promise to place 1000 jobs in three years through Manpower. It appears that expectations have certainly not been met in that regard. We hope you can answer our questions, so we can work together to make sure taxpayers are protected and open jobs are being filled across South Dakota.

Thank you,

Senator Billie Sutton
Representative Susan Wismer

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Democrats: State adds employees, leaving schools and nursing homes behind

Pierre, SD (December 5, 2012) – Democratic Appropriations committee members pointed out today that Governor Dennis Daugaard’s budget address failed to mention 107 new full-time equivalent (FTE) positions being added to the state payroll, while leaving schools and nursing homes without adequate staff after the 2011 budget cuts.

It’s another clear instance of state government taking care of itself without taking care of its residents first, said Rep. Susan Wismer (D-Britton), who sits on the House appropriations committee. “We learned yesterday that these are good times for South Dakota state government: 40 of the 131 employees cut in Pierre two years ago are being added back for some great causes: drug courts, drivers licensing, highway patrol, corrections and corrections health, parole officers, fire fighters, accountants, plus a PhD program in physics, and maintenance and repair catch-up,” said Wismer. “But those good times aren’t extending to education and Medicaid providers. There’s no catch-up provision for them, as they recover only 3% of the cuts they suffered. They are the ones still stuck with ‘the new normal.’”

Sen. Billie Sutton (D-Burke), who sits on the Senate Appropriations committee, added, “Bringing back these positions is an encouraging sign of recovery, but kids depend on schools for a quality education, and seniors depend on the nursing homes in communities across our state – we simply can’t ask them to carry on with massive budget cuts while state government uses our taxes to expand its payrolls.”

Both lawmakers emphasized the necessity of the positions, noting that the additional workload has been hard on remaining state employees, but stressed that if there’s enough funding to bring the state back to pre-recession levels, there’s enough to help schools and nursing homes get to that level as well.

“The budget is not just pages of abstract numbers and line-items; it fundamentally outlines our priorities as a state,” said Sutton.  “The question is this: do we care more about growing state government, or do we care more about investing in kids and caring for seniors?”

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