District 17 needs Clark in S.D. Senate

District 17 needs Clark in S.D. Senate by the Vermillion Plain Talk When addressing constituents in his role as legislator, B.J. Nesselhuf speaks with certitude.

That's unfortunate, because so many times, he is simply wrong.

Nesselhuf, who has served two terms in the state House, wants to cross the aisle to the S.D. Senate.

We believe it is time for District 17 to send someone to the state Senate who has the maturity, the real-world experience and the patience to undertake and understand the complicated task of lawmaking.

That person is Judy Clark.

Last March, at the end of the 2004 legislative session, Nesselhuf wrote about several items of achievement.

He noted:

* The Appropriations Committee provided for a 3 percent increase in funding for nursing homes and adjustment training centers.�The Appropriations Committee also funded a doubling of the "personal needs" allowance for seniors in nursing homes. The old limit was $30.

* The proposed Homestake Laboratory is "a major milestone," and wrote that the state will not spend a dime of tax money in building the facility before the National Science Foundation commits in writing to the project.

* The Legislature passed a significant increase in state aid to education, he wrote, from $3967.88 per pupil to $4086.56. This is in addition to another $7.3 million that will go to state aid, he stated, but will not be figured into the base calculation.

Nursing homes, scientific research, state aid to education � these are all things that Nesselhuf supports. A look at his voting record shows he supports additional funding in other areas, from tourism to the state's insurance risk pool.

We wonder, though. If he supports increased funding of a host of issues that are so important to South Dakota, why is he adamant about repealing the sales tax on food?

He and other Democrats spearheaded the petition drive to refer the measure to a public vote.

It's not that we haven't heard his explanation, his chest-thumping about the "moral outrage" of taxing a necessity of life.

He seems oblivious to the fact that ending the tax would short-change the state over $40 million a year. Municipalities would lose $20 million annually, and tribes would lose $800,000 a year.

On top of that, South Dakota already had a sizeable deficit � to the tune of nearly $30 million � at the end of this fiscal year.

Nesselhuf's solution: Spend the state's reserve funds.

There's just one problem. That won't work.

South Dakota has about $110 million in a property tax reduction fund to make sure education receives full funding. We suppose we could spend that, but our property taxes would have to go up to supply funds for state aid to education.

We have nearly $370 million in an education enhancement trust fund, which we can't touch, thanks to a Constitutional amendment we approved in 2001.

There's about $90 million in a health care trust fund. Oops, can't touch that because of another Constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2001.

There's about $260 million in the Dakota Cement Trust. You guessed it. We can't touch it, Constitutional amendment, 2001.

That leaves us with "a rainy day fund," which, earlier this year, contained about $40 million. In other words, we would spend it all the first year, and still be $1 million short.

It's likely that fund may not be at $40 million anymore. State government ended its fiscal year on June 30 by transferring $14.8 million from the reserve to balance the budget.

Clark can't stop the repeal of the food tax when elected to the state Senate. That issue will have been decided by South Dakota voters.

Should citizens vote to end the tax, we believe Clark, with her experience on the House Appropriations Committee, is much more qualified to help South Dakota pick up the pieces afterwards than Nesselhuf.

Clark has also proven to be a strong supporter of the entire legislative district.

While in the Legislature, Clark used her expertise to help local government access state grants and services. These include finding start-up funding for the Lewis and Clark Learning Center at W.H. Over Museum, additional funding for the Radigan Fire Station, initiating a Department of Transportation bike trail to Spirit Mound, diagonal parking in Viborg and many other district-wide community projects.

She's a proven leader. Clark's community endeavors include everything from serving on the local zoning board, to the founding of Vermillion Beautiful, Inc. for city beautification, for which she was awarded the Sertoma Service to Mankind Award.

She's smart. She's full of energy. She's sophisticated, with the ability to make sense of the increasingly complex issues state lawmakers must face.

She belongs in the state Senate.

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