Press Release- SD Democrats Advocate for Medicaid Expansion Following Governor’s Budget Address


Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 8, 2015

South Dakota Democrat Leaders Advocate for Medicaid Expansion in South Dakota Following the Governor’s Budget Address

Pierre, SD (December 8, 2015)-

On Tuesday, Governor Dennis Daugaard corrected course and announced his support of a plan to expand Medicaid in South Dakota under the Affordable Care Act at his annual budget address.

South Dakota Democrats have been advocating for Medicaid Expansion since the option of increasing health care coverage was made available through the Affordable Care Act. South Dakota Democrat legislators have introduced legislation to expand Medicaid during each of the past three legislative sessions, all of which have been killed by the State’s Republican majority Legislature.

Executive Director of the South Dakota Democratic Party, Suzanne Jones Pranger, said

“South Dakota should have expanded Medicaid sooner, as Democrats proposed, because the federal government would have paid 100% of the cost of expansion of coverage until 2016. Instead, the state gave up a chance to recoup millions in federal tax dollars while providing coverage to as many as 55,000 South Dakotans with no cost to the state. South Dakota Democrats have been determined to make Medicaid expansion happen for South Dakota families, and that fight continues.”

Democratic Party leaders in the State Legislature are hopeful that this legislative session will provide a breakthrough in the fight to expand Medicaid. Democratic Party leaders say they are committed to working with those on the other side of the aisle to expand health care coverage in South Dakota.

“Democrats have continually advocated for Medicaid expansion for over three years now because we know that Medicaid expansion is an investment. Expanding this affordable healthcare option will provide thousands of South Dakotans a better opportunity to improve their health and live happy, productive lives,” said Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton. “The best type of investment our State can make is in its own citizens, and that is exactly what Medicaid expansion will accomplish. Democrats look forward to working with the Governor, Republican members of the Legislature, Tribes, and the federal government to develop a framework that best invests in South Dakota’s economic and healthcare future.”

Medicaid expansion may also provide an opportunity to expand IHS services and heath care access to Native American South Dakotans. House Minority Leader Spencer Hawley said,

“The Affordable Care Act and Democrats’ continual efforts to come to an agreement on Medicaid Expansion have brought all the parties to the table and have given us the opportunity to help ensure that the federal government adequately provides South Dakota’s Native peoples’ their treaty right to health care. We look forward to working with our colleagues to make Medicaid expansion a reality for the people of South Dakota.”    

Over 30 states have expanded Medicaid, which includes our neighbor states of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. Medicaid expansion will save lives, stimulate the economy, and increase the State’s revenues.

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Press Release: Democratic legislative leaders respond to GOED/EB-5 investigations

For Immediate Release: Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sioux Falls, SD (January 30, 2014) – Democratic leaders in the legislature welcomed the additional information on the GOED/EB-5 investigations that was provided today by Governor Daugaard’s office. “The audits ordered by the governor’s office are a good start,” said Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, the House minority leader. “While they hardly qualify as independent audits, since they were framed and ordered by the administration itself, they do provide additional insight into the way economic development operates in South Dakota.” Rep. Bernie Hunhoff (D-Yankton)

Hunhoff and other Democrat and Republican leaders co-sponsored a joint resolution that was introduced today (Jan. 30) which lays out the legislature’s intent to begin hearings on the issue by the Government Operations & Audit Committee. The hearings will likely begin during the current legislative session but continue on into the spring or summer.

“Economic development is crucial to every South Dakotan,” Hunhoff said, “so we have a bi-partisan goal of restoring confidence in those activities. To do so we need to leave no question unanswered. I’m confident that the legislators on GOAC will deliver on that responsibility.”


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How many months do you have to work to earn your CEOs pay?

“While executives at many top companies make top dollar, the typical employee at corporations like McDonald’s, Gap, Target, and Walmart still earns minimum wage, or something barely above it. The disparity is alarming. CEOs of American companies now earn some 270 times what the average worker makes.” Continue Reading »

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BREAKING – Initiated Measure to Raise the Minimum Wage Approved by Secretary of State

For Immediate Release: Friday, December 6, 2013

Sioux Falls, SD (December 6, 2013) South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director Zach Crago released the following statement after Secretary of State Jason Gant approved the initiated measure petitions filed to raise the minimum wage:

“Our successful petition drive is confirmation that South Dakotans want to build an economy that works for everyone. South Dakotans want to raise the minimum wage. Now they’ll have the opportunity to give 62,000 hardworking people a raise in 2014.”

Initiated measure 18 raises South Dakota’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $8.50 per hour with annual cost of living increases. You can read more about the initiated measure and learn how to get involved in the campaign at


 Please consider making a contribution to celebrate our success at

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Aberdeen American News: Why is there no state investigation into $550k?

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, December 4, 2013

South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director Zach Crago released the following statement after the Aberdeen American News editorial board asked why Attorney General Marty Jackley and Governor Dennis Daugaard refuse to find out what happened with the $550,000 stolen from state Future Funds to the bankrupt Northern Beef Packers Plant:
“$550,000 was stolen from South Dakota taxpayers, and neither Attorney General Marty Jackley nor Governor Dennis Daugaard want to get to the bottom of this.


“It was our money that the Rounds-Daugaard administration granted, and it was the terms of a state grant that were broken. How could Jackley and Daugaard lack the curiosity to find out who did this and how they did it? The Aberdeen American News editorial board is right – we must get to the bottom of this now. That’s why I’m reiterating my call for Jackley to step aside andallow a special prosecutor to investigate the financial misconduct at the Governors Office of Economic Development.”

Aberdeen American News
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Brown County Commission and the Aberdeen City Council should join an Aberdeen man in demanding answers from state government on missing Future Fund grant money.

Resident Duane Riedel presented 176 signatures to commissioners Tuesday asking for a resolution that would compel Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Attorney General Marty Jackley to find out what happened to $550,000 of grant money meant to go to Northern Beef Packers that was instead diverted elsewhere.

Jackley had previously said it was up to the federal government to investigate, as the missing Future Fund money is part of the ongoing federal EB-5 investigation.

That doesn’t sit right with Riedel, or with us. It shouldn’t sit right with local elected officials, either.

We would hardly recommend local lawmakers waste their time on resolutions with no teeth that go nowhere. In this extraordinary case, we feel it is the duty of county and city officials to state, in writing, that we are unsatisfied by the lack of oversight into Future Funds, and the lack of interest in finding out what happened to the money.

Our leaders in Pierre need to know this is important to constituents.

At the same time, the local resolutions can also endorse the concept of Rep. Kathy Tyler, D-Big Stone City, of an independent forensic audit into the state’s use of EB-5.

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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!

I want to be a volunteer!

The South Dakota Democratic Party is volunteer driven organization. Our volunteers spread our message, determine our goals, and help elect Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. Be a South Dakota Democratic Party volunteer 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.


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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Varilek Appointed Regional Administrator For SBA →

Chairman’s Note: Our dear friend Matt Varilek accepted an appointment this week to be the regional administrator for the Small Business Administration. He’s up to the task. With economic development experience in the private and public sectors, Varilek knows how to support entrepreneurs, small business owners, and local communities. Congratulations on the new job, Matt. We look forward to seeing what great things you’ll do for South Dakota going forward.

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SD business tax breaks to be open to public →

It’s finally official – Governor Daugaard has signed a comprehensive economic development package created by legislators that invests in education, housing, community development and businesses of all sizes. Pat yourself on the back. In 2011, Governor Daugaard authored a huge corporate welfare package for big out of state businesses and forced it through the legislature before you all referred the measure and voters rejected it in 2012. Now we have a more comprehensive package with much stronger protections for your tax dollars, and that’s a win you can take credit for.

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Nesselhuf to Daugaard: Rescind Rounds’ Campaign Aide Appointment to State Board of Economic Development

Sioux Falls, SD (Jan. 3, 2013) – South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf released the following statement after Rob Skjonsberg, a top campaign aide for Governor Mike Rounds’ US Senate campaign, was appointed to the South Dakota Board of Economic Development by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

“Do you believe in coincidences? The man running Gov. Mike Rounds’ campaign for US Senate just got appointed by Governor Daugaard to help dole out state tax dollars for economic development. Whose interest is being served here? It’s just another ongoing example of Republicans leaders in Pierre using state tax dollars to support Republicans running for office.

“I am calling on Governor Dennis Daugaard to rescind his offer to Mike Rounds’ campaign aide for a seat on the state Board of Economic Development.

“Politics has no place in managing state tax dollars for economic development. South Dakota cannot afford to question whether Mike Rounds’ campaign aide is serving South Dakota or Governor Mike Rounds’ US Senate candidacy.”

Rob Skjonsberg helps lead Rounds for Senate, the US Senate campaign for Governor Mike Rounds. Skjonsburg was appointed by Governor Daugaard today to serve on the state Board of Economic Development, effective Jan 8.


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