Governor Dennis Daugaard's French cheese subsidy passed its first hurdle yesterday. Near the top of House Bill 1060, the big pile of revisions to this year's state budget, is an additional five million dollars in "operating expenses" for the Governor's Office of Economic Development. That five million dollars covers the promise Governor Daugaard made to French cheesemaker Bel Brands to induce them to build a factory in Brookings.
Democrat Sue Wismer did offer an amendment to get the state to invest a comparable $5 million in immediate aid to education, but House Appropriations apparently considers subsidies to French cheesemakers a higher priority than direct support for South Dakota students and teachers. That amendment failed, and the committee moved the French cheese subsidy and the appropriations bill forward.
As the full House debates HB 1060 this afternoon (and I'm assuming they'll take at least a little time to actually debate it), I'm hoping we'll hear at least one Republican criticize this corporate welfare as a violation of free-market principles, not to mention this apparent abuse of power in which the Governor gets to make promises that the Legislature has to fund after the fact. But I suspect I'm hoping too hard... for political consistency.