Sunday, January 25, 2009

Statehouse Alert, Jan 25

An e-newsletter of the South Dakota Democratic Party sent to you because
it's time to bring change to Pierre.


Rounds' Do-Over Budget hits the rocks at Saturday crackerbarrels

It's not that Gov. Mike Rounds didn't see times getting worse when he delivered his first proposed state budget in December. He announced his plans to renege on education spending, but not nearly to the shocking extent of his Do-Over Budget which was finally announced Thursday when Rounds said he offered $46.2 million in cuts, making education and health care his top targets for the knife. Rounds' Do-Over Budget would kill the State Fair (which has been funded since 1885), the State School for the Deaf (started in 1880) and the South Dakota Arts Council, for starters.

Democratic legislators Monday offered a much smarter plan to meet the state's essential needs within available resources, and it did not kill the State Fair, the State School for the Deaf and the S.D. Arts Council. And some Republicans are now talking about running away from Rounds' disastrous budget proposal.

At legislative coffees Saturday, the GOP legislators stuck close to their pre-fabbed talking points mimicking the Governor's doom and gloom spiel and offering no other vision than cut, cut, cut, cut and oh geez that's too bad.

In Rapid City, where there are no Democratic legislators, the cut cut cut talk turned to Rep. Ed McLaughlin's idea to force consolidation of rural school districts by raising the minimum number of students from 100 to 250 in a four-year period. McLaughlin theorized that such forced consolidations would generate significant savings, a theory which is widely disputed. The Rapid City area Republican legislators backed away from committing to a $13.4 million higher education center in Rapid City. In saying he'd vote against it, Rep. Mark Kirkeby also said he supports it, adding "No one can dispute the rewards in higher education."

In Sioux Falls, Sen. Scott Heidepriem, D-Sioux Falls, warned that while Rounds' budget might cut state revenues, some decisions only shoves funding onto property taxes. An example was sloughing adult Medicaid dental care might remove $1.4 million from the state budget, but the bill would be shifted to county governments' indigent care costs. Representative Susy Blake, D-Sioux Falls, said cutting $2.1 million from early intervention for infant and toddlers with developmental delays would increase costs later in drug and alcohol treatment programs and in prison costs.

Rounds clings to government secrecy position:
Trust me, everybody else is wrong.

If there's been any issue which screams for the need to bring change it's the stubborn refusal to create "a presumption of openness" to make public records, um, public. Keeping the gag on public records is what Governor Mike Rounds and his supporters in Pierre say they want, even though the gag prevents elected leaders and Joe the American Citizen from getting information about how the public's taxes are spent.

Such was the case for Sen. Gene Abdallah, R-Sioux Falls, who sought information on state aircraft and got the door shut by Rounds' political appointees until Abdallah blew the whistle to the media. And such was the case about the governor's airplane flight logs and data until the Argus Leader blew the whistle and voters quashed Rounds' secret flight records with a constitutional amendment passed in 2006. And such is still the case for non-bid state contracts which rewarded millions and hundreds of thousands of your taxes under the radar of public scrutiny until the Rapid City Journal began digging into them.

Republican Senate Leader Dave Knutson, a candidate for governor running against Rounds' choice for governor Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard, has flipped his position on "presumption of openness." Last year, when Sen. Nancy Turbak Berry, D-Watertown, offered the only real open records legislation, Knutson led the fight against it. Now he's offering a version of Nebraska's "presumption of openness" law, which will probably get axed by Rounds' supporters in the Legislature.

Pressuring Rounds and the Republicans in Pierre to remove the gag is the order from President Barack Obama to open government records at the federal level, which was criticized by Rounds in an Associated Press article.

Who's Rounds afraid of revealing records to? You. Joe the Citizen and Joan the Citizen. You get the mushroom treatment. What about other states? For the record, the Turbak Berry bill is the standard in most states, and nothing bad happened. And now President Barack Obama is making presumption of openness the law for the federal government. South Dakota has the most
repressive public records laws in the United States. Why is that?

Sioux Falls area volunteer food drive dramatically exceeds goals

An entirely volunteer-driven effort to gather canned foods and personal necessities for poor and homeless people far exceeded goals to gather 3 tons of items. They gathered 7 tons and more than $2,300 in cash donations. That's 7 tons!!!

The drive was led by Cathy Avery and Richard Reedy and gathered items Jan. 17-19 as part of the National Day of Service, which had been requested as a non-partisan public service by President Barack Obama. It honored the Martin Luther King Holiday and the Presidential Inauguration.

Avery said 19 stores and many service and labor union organizations joined in the effort. The items were delivered to the Food Bank of South Dakota. She said the food drive will be conducted each year and that she hopes it will expand into a statewide effort in two years.


by Rick Hauffe, SDDP Executive Director

Hope and trust came back home to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday and you could see it in everybody's face in the city. Having lived in the Washington area (1967-1974) and visited it frequently for business and pleasure, I saw a change -- perhaps temporary -- in attitudes among its inhabitants. Subtle tensions, particularly on buses and Metro train, were gone. People smiled a lot this past week. On the street, if you said "hi" or "howdy," you'd get a similar response -- frequently.

Standing in the D.C. chill Tuesday morning among 2 million people was an experience in bonding with the new feeling of hope and trust. Cynicism was gone except when President Bush and Vice President Cheney came onto the inauguration stage. Their tenure seemed like a very bad and painful dream. Those feelings washed away when the Obama family walked onto the stage. The confidence and optimism was contagious. "I just can't believe the difference between the new attitude in Washington and how they're approaching things in Pierre," one of the South Dakotans who attended the inauguration said yesterday in a phone conversation. "The difference is overwhelming."

Photo detail stolen with accreditation from Hog House BlogThe stark difference came through in the weekend crackerbarrels. In Sioux Falls, Democratic legislators dramatically outnumbered the two Republicans who were onstage. The discussion centered on alternatives and a general rejection of the tone and direction set by the Governor. In Rapid City, an observer told me the statements from the GOP legislators failed to inspire anyone, and, in fact, left folks feeling depressed. The Republicans are caught somewhere between complaining about Rounds and blindly following the leader -- because that's all they've ever done in Pierre.

Whether we like it or not, and whether or not we think Rounds is handling the budget crisis competently, all South Dakotans are in the same economic soup. It's alarming for a Governor in the last half of his second term in office to appear blind to or in denial of economic realities until only a few weeks ago. His rejection of presumption of openness standards on the heels of a scandal of how his office uses non-bid contracts and another scandal that he is still withholding public records on state airplane usage only serves to lower public confidence at a vulnerable time for our state. And today in the Rapid City Journal, he called people in his own political party "ignorant" for pointing out that in his seventh year as Governor, he has added 1,400 more fulltime state employees while claiming he is a fiscal conservative.

This session is very important for the fiscal health of our state, for the future jobs prospects of our state and for the next generation of leaders when Rounds leaves office in a little less than two years. I think people of our state are impressed with what's happening in Washington and the positive "yes we can" attitude to solving the massively difficult problems left by the Bush/Cheney/Rove/Libby/Rumsfeld administration. This attitude does not exist in Pierre ... except in the Democratic legislative caucus where Senate Leader Scott Heidepriem and House Leader Bernie Hunhoff have offered a clear, concise, common sense alternative that solves the current budget mess.

It's been 31 years since South Dakota had a Democratic Governor administration. Since then, one-party rule has controlled the governor's office and both chambers of the legislature, and the big pocketbook problems facing South Dakota remained unchanged -- miserably low pay, unfair taxation, no health care leadership, paltry progress on wind energy, and a failing, ailing infrastructure. We can do better.

I'm hopeful of our party's prospects in 2010. Trust in state government is at a new low. The public needs to know there really is a better alternative to more of the same. South Dakota can turn blue if you want it to. Please be part of the change we're trying to bring to Pierre.

The South Dakota Democratic Party provides professional staff and some of the best consultant support to our Democratic legislators. This newsletter is being sent to you to keep you informed of key issues and major developments in Pierre.

Please help us today with your check to SDDP for $100, $50, $25 or whatever you can afford today. By making a difference for the Democratic Party, you will help us and our legislators make a difference for South Dakota.

Paid for by South Dakota Democratic Party, P.O. Box 1485, Sioux Falls, SD 57101; Bill Nibbelink, Treasurer. To contribute, mail your check today to
SDDP, P.O. Box 1485, Sioux Falls, SD 57101.

Political contributions are not tax-deductible as a charitable contribution for Federal income tax purposes.

1 comment:

  1. You're being so unkind to the Dear Leader and his Puppet Legislature.
    After 31 years of one party rule, South Dakota will soon be known as one of the world's great authoritarian dictatorships...31 more years and it'll have outlasted the Soviet Union. And just how has the state's investment kitty been doing these days...anybody ever ask that question??? Janklow sold the Cement Plant so he could start the investment are we doing?