Democrats encouraged by governor’s support to cut waste in government

Wasteful spending on state airplane travel and corporate tax rebate programs may finally be grounded in South Dakota. Democratic state legislators say they welcome Gov. Dennis Daugaard�s announcement on Tuesday that he�ll seek to stop such waste.

Daugaard delivered his first State of the State address on Tuesday, adopting several Democratic initiatives from previous sessions. �We are heartened by the new governor�s openness on airplanes and corporate tax welfare,� said Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, the House minority leader. �He delivered a very straight-forward speech with little gamesmanship, and that�s refreshing. We are here to work with him on cutting the bureaucracy, not just on airplanes and corporate rebates, but all other areas before we even consider shifting education and Medicaid expenses to local governments.�

Rep. Mitch Fargen, the assistant minority leader from Flandreau, said he was encouraged by Gov. Daugaard�s admission that South Dakota state government faces a budget crisis. �As a candidate he couldn�t see a problem, but apparently there�s been a miraculous election day conversion. Now that we all agree there�s a problem, let�s get to work on the solutions.� 

Rep. Fargen said Democrats may disagree with the governor on some of his budget remedies, however. �We don�t think that the answer is for state government to decrease its responsibilities for education. The K-12 schools� share of the general fund has already fallen from 39 to 30 percent over the last eight years. Any further cuts will create increases in property taxes � and South Dakotans already pay a bigger share of school funding than property owners in other states.�

Sen. Jason Frerichs, the new Democratic leader in the senate, said he was encouraged that the new governor is willing to stop some of the harmful policies of the past �� especially related to school reserve funds, small school enrollment size and others. �He expressed a willingness to work with rural South Dakota and small towns. That�s a refreshing change from the last eight years.�

Frerichs said he was also heartened by the governor�s willingness to split the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs into two departments. �Veterans felt they were getting short shrift from the current bureaucracy, so this is a big improvement for our veterans.�

Rep. Kevin Killer, a Democrat from Pine Ridge, said the governor�s intentions to create a cabinet-level Secretary of Tribal Affairs is a good start. �The meat will be in the follow-through. There have been promises in the past, and many promises broken,� said Rep. Killer. �We have four of the 10 poorest counties in the United States and the people who live there are going to be affected for better or worse by the work of this new office.�

The Democratic leaders pledged to work with the Daugaard administration to jump-start economic development. �We need good jobs in South Dakota, and we need to invest our scarce economic development resources in the best possible ways,� said Hunhoff. �We hope to work with the governor�s office to create a data base so lawmakers and the public know how much is being spent on business loans and grants, and know the purpose and goals of each investment.�

�Gov. Daugaard indicated in his State of the State speech that TransCanada Pipeline should probably not have qualified for a tax rebate program amounting to tens of millions of dollars,� Fargen said. �We need more transparency in the process so we can come together to make smarter decisions on economic development investments.�

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