Bernie Hunhoff (D-Yankton)

Through the years, I’ve always felt that we made at least small steps in every legislative session — never as much as we might hope but at least something. This year, it’s clear that we took a big step backwards. We hurt our schools and the state shirked its responsibilities for providing health care to the youngest, the oldest and the poorest in South Dakota. In the process we lost more than $30 million in federal Medicaid funds.

The governor’s extremist budget will raise property taxes, raise college tuition costs and shift costs of services to local taxpayers in many other ways. Plus the state has deferred its own expenses — including the dire need to give low-paid state workers a cost-of-living increase. The stubbornness of the administration to compromise on the budget has created a fiscal mess.

Democrats offered a common sense solution that mixes selective cuts with smart use of reserve funds, reductions in corporate welfare, earnings from trust funds and other sources to keep property taxes down, improve the state’s economy and help us grow our way back to prosperity. We’ll return in the next legislative session, willing and ready to compromise and work together to get South Dakota government back on track.

I’m proud of the Democratic legislators who worked hard to find solutions and move our state forward. We are bucking a Tea Party movement that has an extreme agenda, but we’re confident South Dakotans recognize the need to work together to find solutions. We lost some battles at the legislature in 2011, but with your help we can regroup in 2012.