I want to be suspicious of Governor Dennis Daugaard. Anybody who campaigns for office saying there is not budget crisis then turns around after winning and argues we have to slash the state budget ten percent warrants some suspicion.
HB 1228 offered tax refunds for the construction of big wind farms (building costs over $50 million) and environmental upgrades at big power plants (300 megawatts or more). This bill was the compromise that kept House Republicans from pressing a scheme that would have negated the upcoming referendum on Governor Daugaard's larger economic development tax refund program.
Governor Daugaard cited that referral in his veto message, saying the Legislature should not monkey with big corporate tax refunds until the voters have made clear via Referred Law 14 their will on such economic development policies. The Governor also nodded to fairness for smaller wind energy projects: he cites a proposed 20-megawatt wind farm that evidently wouldn't meet the $50-million threshold for the tax refund.
On the fiscally wonky side, Governor Daugaard brands HB 1228 unacceptable in its lack of a fiscal note. He sees HB 1228 sending millions of dollars out of state to ratepayers getting electricty from the Big Stone power plant in northeast South Dakota. He also complains that the bill was a "continuous appropriation," not a tax break, and thus should have been passed by a two-thirds vote rather than a simple majority (which is all HB 1228 got in the Senate). The Governor's veto means HB 1228 will need a two-thirds vote tomorrow to survive.
The Governor offers rational reasons for his veto. I am again relieved to see that he will respect the referendum process, even when he's "disgusted" by it. But is the Governor's referendum respect an excuse to take a swipe at the green priorities of the Dems who referred the Governor's corporate welfare plan? And can we count on the Governor to stand up for fairness for small-scale renewable energy producers with policies like net-metering?
The Governor's fiscal argument also smells just a little bit. There is only one fiscal note posted for the 2011 Legislative session, and that fiscal note is not for the Governor's large project refund plan (2011's HB 1230). The Governor also signed all sorts of bills this year that had no fiscal note. He supported modifying his own education reform bill this session to avoid a two-thirds new-appropriations vote, even though his HB 1234 supposedly obligates the state to invest $15 million more a year in teachers. Is that a "continuous appropriation"?
I admit that my suspicion of the Daugaard agenda may have me stretching for quibbles. On pure policy consistency, we may do better to follow the principle of the veto of HB 1228 across our economic policies: require all businesses to pay their fair share of taxes, regardless of size, industry, or closed-door wheeling and dealing with the likes of Russ Olson.
But let's see what you think of this veto, dear readers... and let's see what our legislators say tomorrow during Veto Day in Pierre.