Governor Dennis Daugaard deserves all the guff we can give him for reneging on his no-new-taxes promise to consider a gasoline-tax increase. Acknowledging that we don't spend enough on our roads and bridges is an important repudiation of the Republican sloganeering that would have us believe that public goods grow on free-market trees. Roads don't just happen; communities build them with taxes.

But Governor Daugaard deserves credit for screwing up the courage to focus on transportation at a time when Congress appears incapable of getting anything done. The lame-duck session is ticking away with zero accomplishments. Congress stages a cynical political ploy to express its support for one private pipeline that won't help any American drive to work, then goes home for Thanksgiving. But both parties ignore the Highway Trust Fund, which we urgently need to replenish in order to rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges:

Ray LaHood: That's the pot of money that over 50 years helped us create the best interstate system in the world, which is now falling apart.

Steve Kroft: Why? How did it get this way?

Ray LaHood: It's falling apart because we haven't made the investments. We haven't got the money. The last time we raised the gas tax, which is how we built the interstate system, was 1993.

Steve Kroft: What has the resistance been?

Ray LaHood: Politicians in Washington don't have the political courage to say, "This is what we have to do." That's what it takes.

Steve Kroft: They don't want to spend the money? They don't want to raise the taxes?

Ray LaHood: That's right. They don't want to spend the money. They don't want to raise the taxes. They don't really have a vision of America the way that other Congresses have had a vision of America [Steve Kroft, "Falling Apart: America's Neglected Infrastructure," CBS: 60 Minutes, 2014.11.23.

In at least suggesting that he'll set aside his election-year slogans and seek more tax revenue to maintain our roads, Governor Daugaard is showing a little more leadership and vision than our Congressional delegation. Let's hope our Legislature can follow the Governor's (and more importantly, Senator Mike Vehle's) lead, drop the campaign trail baloney, educate the voters as to the proper role of government, and fill some potholes.

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Sioux Falls restaurateur and known liberal Steve Hildebrand got to serve Governor Dennis Daugaard on Friday. As a tip, the Governor left a signal that if the Legislature wants to kill the minimum-wage increase we voters passed Tuesday, that would be hunky-dory:

So, Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard came into my restaurant this morning to meet with a newly elected Republican legislator who frequents the place. After their meeting and before he walked out the door, I asked the governor if he had a minute to talk to me. I asked him to not let Republican legislators repeal the cost-of-living adjustments for the minimum wage increase that the people of South Dakota just passed by a healthy majority.

His response: "I don't believe in the minimum wage. I believe we should let the market set the rates of pay." I said, great. Then people in South Dakota will work for $2.50 an hour.

And then I pointed out to him that Sioux Falls has a 3% unemployment rate, but that 50% of our school-aged kids qualify for free-or-reduced lunches - and that poverty is a REAL problem in our state. I asked him to pay attention to low wages, poverty and to take this very seriously. His aides, were very rude and escorted him quickly out of the restaurant. I was left with only one thought - the governor of my state doesn't care that families are working in poverty level jobs, can't make ends meet. Too bad he can't have a reasonable conversation with a local business owner who knows how hard it is for people to make ends meet when wages are so low.

And what a shame if Republicans attempt to repeal a law passed by the voters. Not that they haven't done it many times. But really, wages for people working in poverty-level jobs. Shame on them [link added; Steven C. Hildebrand, Facebook post, 2014.11.07].

Almost everyone is working, but with only the meager protection of a minimum wage still well below what workers deserve for their productivity, half of the families need help buying lunch for their kids. Governor Daugaard, should the market also determine which kids eat?

Blogger Michael Larson suggested that we should lower the Governor's pay to parity with the Lennox mayor's, $3,200 a year. Let's go one better: let's let the market determine Dennis Daugaard's salary. Remove his legally guaranteed salary of $107,121.62 (plus that really valuable house he gets to live in on our dime, and the nice state cars and planes that haul him and his rude aides around). Let him work, and at the end of each month, we'll conduct a poll to determine just what they think their Governor's labor has been worth. Maybe he'll get $10,000. Maybe he'll get $10, and Mrs. Daugaard will have to go jerk espresso at Pier 347 or substitute-teach.

I suppose we could argue that's how we do state executive salaries right now. We poll the "market"—comprised mostly the Governor's fellow Republicans in the Legislature—and they compose a state budget that locks in pay for the Governor along with all state employees.

But not one of these executives is anywhere near subsistence living at $8.50 an hour. Not one of these executives needs a second income to feed the kids. Not one of these executives faces the reality of a market that would throw them into welfare or bankruptcy in a month if the law didn't protect their basic dignity as workers.

Citizens, take your new legislators to coffee this month. Remind them that you are the market, and you have spoken: workers deserve at least $8.50 an hour, with indexed increases each year. Legislators, don't mess with Initiated Measure 18.

Update 14:04 CST: Todd Epp suggests some might call a Legislative repeal of IM 18 totalitarianism. Indeed, we might.

124 comments

Mike Rounds gets one newspaper endorsement, from his hometown Pierre Capital Journal. The editorial board in our capital tepidly defaults to experience on every statewide ballot line. They excuse Rounds thus:

We are well aware of the ongoing federal investigation into the EB-5 mess, and although significant questions remain, the experience Rounds brings outweighs any negatives from that issue ["Our Endorsements," Pierre Capital Journal, 2014.11.03].

They darn Rep. Kristi Noem with similar faint praise:

Republican incumbent Kristi Noem has more experience than Democrat Corinna Robinson and gets our endorsement. However, our board shares fairly broad agreement across party lines that Noem is a lackluster performer in the U.S. House, standing for non-controversial causes such as the move to stop human trafficking (as though anyone would take the other side of that issue) or predictable Midwest causes such as the farm bill – legislation from which her own family’s farm operation harvests plenty in taxpayer subsidies, as a letter elsewhere on this page observes. Noem deserves credit for taking a strong stand for conservation provisions in that bill, however [PCJ, 2014.11.03].

Even tough decider Governor Dennis Daugaard gets a bit of ho-hum from his closest monitors:

While we cannot see a great many accomplishments, we don’t see very much to fault him for, either [PCJ, 2014.11.03].

The only exception to the Pierre editors' safe embrace of company-town incumbency comes in the District 24 Senate race, where they reject Republican Senator Jeff Monroe's low-achieving in favor of trying something new and Democratic:

Our recommendation: We favor the Democratic candidate, Ruth Rehn, over the incumbent Republican, Jeff Monroe. The consensus on our editorial board is that, just as Rehn is contending, Monroe has not been very effective in his latest stint in the Legislature. Ruth Rehn is not the first to draw attention to this point. It was also the point of attack for Monroe’s fellow Republican in the primary, former lawmaker Tad Perry, who emphasized his success in getting legislation passed as the main difference between him and Monroe. The point still holds. We think it is time to give someone else a try and see if another candidate is better at getting thoughtful legislation enacted for South Dakota and District 24 [PCJ, 2014.11.03].

Like Senator Phil Jensen, Senator Jeff Monroe posts dangerous and dumb Glenn-Beck-karaoke bills that get in the way of practical lawmaking to do real good for all South Dakotans. The Pierre Capital Journal appears to recognize the importance of results... but only when the candidate is not a big-name statewide star. But the paper is at least showing a spark of critical thinking. Keep heading down that path, Pierre!

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In the throes of belittling Susan Wismer, journalist Bob Mercer coughs up this nugget about Governor Dennis Daugaard's political intentions... or lack thereof! Mercer reports that Daugaard is putting his campaign on cruise control and calling it quits after his second term:

Daugaard didn’t plan to do any campaigning during his last week before the election and intended to travel on the final Sunday and Monday with former Gov. Mike Rounds, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Daugaard was Rounds’ lieutenant governor for eight years.

...Daugaard would use any leftover money for political purposes and office-related expenses such as travel during the next four years if re-elected, according to his spokesman, Tony Venhuizen.

“He doesn’t want to run again (for another office) and doesn’t want to fund-raise in a second term,” Venhuizen said [Bob Mercer, "History-Making Ticket Fading in Governor's Race," Rapid City Journal, 2014.11.02].

Did you catch that, Republican aspirants? If you're looking to run for Congress in 2018 or to challenge Senator Weiland in 2020, Dennis Daugaard will not stand in your way. Young bucks, rev those engines!

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Governor Dennis Daugaard likes to view himself as the state's top cheerleader. Everything in South Dakota is awesome, the Governor will say... at least when he's trying to recruit corporations to come prey on our workers and build his donor base.

But bring up our public schools, and Governor Daugaard puts away the pom-poms and says private schools are better:

In an interview last week with 100 Eyes Daugaard said: "You can't say that you won't obtain quality without high compensation. I was just at O'Gorman (High School). The teachers at O'Gorman are paid, as a group, less than the Sioux Falls School District. Their students achieve better" [Patrick Anderson, "Daugaard's Teacher Pay Comments Spark Response from Educators," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.10.27].

Them's fightin' words for Lennox teacher and debate coach Michael Larson, who recognizes the willful ignorance and deceit in Governor Daugaard's bogus comparison of public apples and private oranges:

The ignorance that Daugaard shows is that he thinks that the population at a private school like O'Gorman is the same as the population at Sioux Falls Washington.

At the private school that I taught many years ago, there was no special education department.  We didn't have IEPs.  Students whose needs that could not be met went to the public school in the town.  These students came from mostly stable homes.  The majority of them would be considered middle class families or high income families.  The overwhelming majority of the students were Caucasian.  That could not be said for the public school in Storm Lake, Iowa.  It is ridiculous to even think that the challenges faced by teachers in that school were the same as the ones I faced in the private school [Michael Larson, "Only Daugaard Could Pull Me Back In," Taking a Left Turn in South Dakota, 2014.10.27].

The South Dakota School Superintendents' Association responds a bit more gently, pointing out that better wages for teachers, just like better wages in other fields, allow us to compete for higher-quality applicants:

We agree that the goal of education is student achievement, not expenditure. However, as research clearly shows, the role of the teacher is crucial to high student achievement, and, if we want higher student achievement, we need to expend a little more to recruit and retain more quality teachers. As with other areas of workforce development in our state, low wages have impacted the number of available workers in general, and specifically, a shortage of teachers in our schools.

We agree that compensation does attract quality. As with all workforce development, on average, higher wages tend to attract a higher quality of worker—see healthcare, corporate America, Main Street South Dakota, and education. We recognize that internal motivation, a positive workplace environment, job satisfaction, and being appreciated for the job one does, all add to an entities’ ability to attract quality employees, but we all understand that higher wages attract quality candidates [Dan Leikvold, South Dakota School Superintendents Association, open letter, 2014.10.27].

Governor Daugaard, you know full well that public schools labor under very different circumstances from private schools. They have a different mission and require more inputs to achieve that mission. And you know full well that higher wages attract a larger pool of better-qualified candidates. Picking up the pom-poms and honestly cheering our public schools for once would be nice. But picking up your pen and writing a better budget for K-12 education would bring even more cheer.

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Yesterday was the deadline for South Dakota candidates to submit their pre-general campaign finance reports to the Secretary of State. Governor Dennis Daugaard and his running mate Lt. Gov. Matt Michels both have their reports in; so do Democrat Rep. Susan Wismer and Independent Mike Myers. (Myers's running mate Lora Hubbel has also reported, but her filing shows no money in or out.) Here are the totals that have flowed in an out of the gubernatorial campaigns over the last four months:

Raised Spent Cash on Hand
Dennis Daugaard (R) $702,918.35 $878,672.73 $1,460,323.18
Matt Michels (R) $70,616.26 $46,165.02 $24,951.24
Susan Wismer (D) $207,852.50 $238,716.93 $18,391.64
Mike Myers (I) $325.00 $3,688.10 $156.07

Note that Myers has contributed a few thousand out of his own pocket to his own campaign. The Raised numbers here reflect the dollar votes of confidence from others.

As one would expect, Team Daugaard is moneywise untouchable. Daugaard and Michels have $1.5 million on hand to paint every Interstate billboard with Dennis's checked shirt and Matt's manly mustache... or, more likely, to shore up fellow Republicans. Since June, Daugaard's campaign has poured over $143,000 into other GOP campaigns, including $100K to the South Dakota Republican Party, $10K for Shantel Krebs's Secretary of State campaign, and $18.5K for Republican Legislative candidates. (He also gave $250 to the Colton Volunteer Fire Department... perhaps to help put out the fire around Mike Rounds's EB-5 barn?) Michels has greased the state GOP with another $40K, plus a grand for Rounds for Senate.

The Wismer campaign, by contrast, has not been able to spread any such largesse to other Democratic candidates. Before building love with folks down-ticket, Wismer will need to pay off her dad: the $18K Wismer has on hand is less than the $25K loan Maurice Jones loaned the campaign. Dems, better turn on the spigot now to get Wismer out of debt and make that last get-out-the-vote push!

As for Myers... well, I hate to make this comparison, but financially speaking, in the last four months, this blog has outperformed the Myers campaign in numbers of dollars and donors. (Thank you, dear readers, for ringing that tip jar!) In other words, if fundraising means anything, this blog could mount a more effective statewide campaign than the Independent gubernatorial candidate.

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Mr. Ehrisman wonders why we haven't seen a big Governor Dennis Daugaard endorsement ad for Mike Rounds for Senate.

Well, Senator John Thune is on the air telling folks to send him Rounds to join him for No Theater:

Be patient: I suspect a Daugaard endorsement ad is in the chute, ready to go after the Thune ad tires the viewers out.

But if the absence of a Daugaard ad for Rounds catches our attention, so should the absence of an ad from Senator Tim Johnson for Rick Weiland. John Tsitrian senses what he calls tepidity from Senator Johnson and other South Dakota elder Democratic statesmen. Tsitrian also links to this milquetoastery from Senator Johnson:

Of course I'm in favor of Rick Weiland, but they're all good candidates and I'll stay away from the politics [Sen. Tim Johnson, in Tessa Thomas, "Senator Stops in Rapid City for His 'Tour of Thanks'," KEVN-TV, 2014.10.20].

Senator Johnson, I appreciate the Lutheran equanimity, but don't give Mike Rounds a grace he doesn't deserve. Now is not the time to call Mike Rounds a "good candidate" or to stay away from politics. You can use this crucial last moment of your political career to make this the last moment of Mike Rounds's political career. You can use you last hurrah  to give South Dakota the great hurrah of a candidate as honest and hard-working as you have been.

Senator Johnson, break out the camera. Leverage your gravitas and pathos. Shoot this ad:

I'm Tim Johnson. You've trusted me to work for you for 35 years. I've worked through challenges to live up to that trust and get things done for South Dakota.

Now I ask you to trust Rick Weiland. He'll pick up right where I'm leaving off, fighting for every one of us in South Dakota.

I will miss serving you. But Barb and I can rest easy with Rick Weiland as our next Senator. Thank you, South Dakota [fantasy ad, hopefully airing October 29, 2014].

Say those words to the camera. Play some "Morning in America" music. Push Weiland over 40%.

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If Larry Pressler can get mojo back, why can't Susan Wismer?

Susan Wismer has touted her gubernatorial bid as South Dakotans' chance to elect their first female governor. She doubled the female fun by naming Susy Blake as her running mate.

Yet both of the big SurveyUSA polls have shown no advantage for Wismer among the ladies. The September poll showed 55% of men and 53% of women going for Dennis Daugaard; the October poll shows Daugaard winning 58% of men and 60% of women. Ladies, why aren't you flocking to Wismer?

We can ask the same of a big chunk of Democrats. From September to October, the number of Democrats voting for Daugaard has risen from 23% to 32%. A third of my fellow travelers are voting for the Republican incumbent, the leader of the corrupt one-part regime in Pierre and part owner of the EB-5 scandal.

Fellow Democrats, fill me in. What possible reason does a Democrat have to vote for Dennis Daugaard instead of a Democratic challenger who could upset the balance of power and challenge the Legislature to create a better budget?

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