Cross-posted at South Dakota Magazine!
Picking your candidates on the South Dakota ballot should be easy. Just mark all the Democrats: they'reÂ better for your pocketbook!
The ballot issues require a little more cogitation. Here's one South Dakotan's recommendation for how to vote on the 2012 South Dakota constitutional amendments, referred measures, and initiated measure.
Amendment M: No. I considered voting yes, based on new language that would authorize the Legislature to "enact laws governing the operation and dissolution of corporations." Then when my socialist comrades take over in Pierre, we'd have an easier time dissolving Citibank and nationalizing (state-a-lizing?) all the mega-dairies to convert them to grass-fed beef operations. Then I remembered that until the glorious revolution, Amendment O opens the door for our crony-capitalist Legislature to give corporations more leeway for monkeyshines. Nuts to that!
Amendment N: Yes. State employees get realistic mileage reimbursements for the travel they conduct while doing the work we hire them to do. Legislators are state employees, yet we make them take a loss on their mileage costs with one archaic provision of our constitution. Removing that archaic provision is a fair labor practice. Leaving it in place is nothing but petty.
Amendment O: No. Legislators want to change disbursements from the state cement plant trust fund from a fixed $12 million a year to a percentage keyed to the fund value. That sensible change would keep us from depleting the account when the stock market goes bad (see 2007 recession). However, legislators made one mistake: Amendment O also removes the provision that this disbursement be used to support but not replace state aid to education. That provision goes, and so does a guaranteed extra $12 million to support education. Oops. Try again in 2013, legislators!
Amendment P: No. South Dakota has balanced its budget, more or less, 123 years in a row, thanks to good sense, stinginess, and a constitutional rule saying we can't go more than $100,000 into debt. Amendment P would add an explicit balanced-budget rule. The Governor and legislators say adding this rule is like wearing suspenders with a belt. I say we shouldn't make our constitution look like Steve Urkel.
Initiated Measure 15: Yes. This measure caused me the greatest heartburn and uncertainty.Â I'm still queasy, but I've made my call.Â This 25% sales-tax hike bolsters funding for K-12 education and Medicaid, both of which have suffered not just from the Governor's draconian 2011 budget cuts but from over a decade of state neglect. Yet it does so by making worse South Dakota's regressive tax structure. I thus vote Yes with hesitance and say to legislators, "We've handed you more revenue; now ease the burden on the poor by working on a food-tax exemption." I also turn to school boards and say, "Here's $700 more per student. Target that money toward your most needy students, so they get a fair return on the investment their low-income parents are making." $700 a year could subsidize a lot of student breakfasts.
Referred Law 14: No. Corporate welfare for out-footloose out-of-state vulture capitalists doesn't build lasting economic prosperity. If we must support state intrusions on the free market, we do more good for South Dakota by investing our tax rebates in lots of small local entrepreneurs and quality-of-life projects like roads, schools, and parks.