Democratic leaders have fought against deficit spending in Pierre for years, and today (Wednesday) they welcomed Gov. Dennis Daugaard�s acknowledgment that state spending must be cut.
They expressed support for Daugaard�s cuts to the state bureaucracy. �Many are cuts we�ve proposed and supported for the past several years,� said House Minority Leader Bernie Hunhoff. �But we can�t support the governor�s goal to cut resources for school children, people with disabilities, and children and elderly with health problems.
The school and Medicaid budget cuts only pass the buck for these costs to local taxpayers in South Dakota,� Hunhoff said. �They will create higher property taxes, higher tuition in the tech schools and colleges, and higher health care costs for individuals and county governments.�
Students in the state�s tech schools already pay among the highest tuition rates in the nation.
Jason Frerichs, the Senate Minority Leader, noted that state government has a spending problem. �But the state is hardly cash-poor. The governor says we have $107 million in reserves � but when you take into account the trust funds we have nearly $800 million in reserves as well as over a billion dollars in our cash flow account.�
Frerichs and Hunhoff said Democrats have a plan to balance the state�s budget without hurting schools and cutting health care to the poorest South Dakotans. They said they�ll announce more details on Friday morning.
�We need a long-term vision for moving South Dakota forward,� said House Assistant Minority Leader Mitch Fargen. �The Republican plan sets South Dakota backwards. If the Daugaard cuts are enacted, schools may not recover until 2020. Schools will close.
Hospitals will close. Local taxes will rise. Students and young families will leave the state. Is that the vision we want for South Dakota? Can we recruit good new companies and workers with this plan?�
The Democratic leaders said the budget problems need both short-term and long-term fixes, and they�ll offer both this session.
�We hope we can find support from moderate Republicans in the legislature,� Hunhoff said. �We�re South Dakotans first and foremost, and this is a critical time for us to stand up and fight for a better future. This is no time to go backwards in education and health care.�