David Montgomery says Governor Dennis Daugaard proposed a "modest" 2.5% increase in the FY 2016 budget because of a slow state economy:

The cautious increase was spurred by a lukewarm economy. The state's revenue is growing slowly — not enough to pay for massive new spending programs.

Instead, Daugaard offered a collection of minor initiatives... [David Montgomery, "$4.3B Proposed Budget Includes $49M in New Spending," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.12.02].

Bob Mercer calls Governor Daugaard's economic forecast "gloomy":

Coming out of the recession in 2011 and 2012, South Dakota’s economy looked to be on a solid path of recovery. Now it seems the recovery was short. The state sales-tax growth so far in fiscal 2015 that began July 1 of this year didn’t meet the forecast set by the Legislature when the fiscal 2015 budget for state government was approved. The governor’s recommended budget for fiscal 2016 that starts July 1, 2015, estimates sales-tax revenues will grow 4.1 percent. He said that’s below average. He also mentioned that U.S. job growth on a percentage basis is now outpacing South Dakota [Bob Mercer, "Colder Economy Ahead for South Dakota?" Pure Pierre Politics, 2014.12.04].

Wait a minute. Governor Daugaard keeps telling us that if we focus on economic development, that great influx of businesses and investment and jobs will generate more revenue, which we will then be able to use to pay our teachers more and patch more potholes and bolster more bridges without raising taxes. That's the game we've played for four years, and what does it get us? Lower than expected economic growth? A measly 2% increase in education that barely keeps up with inflation, never mind make real improvements?

We can't blame Obama, can we? The U.S. economy trucked along at 4.6% growth second quarter and 3.9% third quarter. South Dakota's sales tax revenues grew by about the same amount. If Dennis Daugaard's policies are better than Barack Obama's, South Dakota should be outperforming the nation.

Are we supposed to wait for Keystone XL? TransCanada already built one awesome tar sands pipeline across our fair state five years ago. Where is the incredible uptick in public revenue from Keystone 1?

Are we supposed to wait for welfare recipient Bel Brands to ship its billionth baby cheese wheel down I-29? The state already subsidized Valley Queen and Lake Norden Cheese into existence with EB-5 money for dairies and state funds for roads and gubernatorial dairy recruitment. Why aren't we already swimming in milky riches?

The whole governmental justification for Daugaardonomics is to produce more revenue for government. But four years of Dennis Daugaard's business-über-alles policymaking has produced no discernible fiscal benefits.

Dennis, you said this plan would work. It's not working. Why don't we try a different plan?

Why don't we try investing some of our own money up front? Let's decide this session we're tired of waiting for Santa Koch and the Trickle Fairy. We're tired of waiting for some Daddy Subsidy-Bucks to move here and plant money trees outside his feedlot. We're tired of imagining we can solve all of our problems with someone else's money.

Let's decide this session that we're going to make a serious, sustained investment in our schools, our roads, and our natural resources.

  1. We're going to raise every South Dakota teacher's pay by $2,500 next year and keep going until the end of FY 2019, by which time we will have raised South Dakota teacher pay by $10,000. We will pay for it by eliminating tax exemptions for commercial fertilizer, pesticides, and certain lodging or by imposing a corporate income tax as a down payment on maintaining a well-trained workforce, not to mention a citizenry fully equipped for democracy.
  2. We will adopt in full the proposals of Senator Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell) and the interim Highway Needs and Financing Committee to invest $144 million in unmet highway maintenance needs. (And when John Thune, Kristi Noem, and Mike Rounds fly back from Washington, we will send the Highway Patrol to detain them at the airport and send them right back to D.C. unless and until they have passed legislation to save the federal Highway Trust Fund.)
  3. We will defund the Future Fund and the entire Governor's Office of Economic Development and reassign every dollar and every FTE to the DENR and the GF&P. Those funds and staff will be used to allow DENR to step up enforcement of existing permits and regulations and to help GF&P keep our parks beautiful and accessible.

Investing immediately in our schools, our roads, and our natural resources isn't any more radical than inserting government into the free market to pick winners and hope they reciprocate with trickle-down economics. Investing in good teachers, solid bridges, clean water, and nice parks can't hurt South Dakota. Plus, such investments in public goods are exactly the kind of work government is supposed to be doing (read your Adam Smith, you commies).

Let's just try it, seriously, for four years. January 2019, we look around and see if South Dakota has gone up in flames. We see if we still have a teacher shortage. We see if Bel Brands and Gehl and Citibank have left (on our really smooth roads and stable bridges). We see if Minnesotans are throwing eggs at our Mall of America booth to protest our clean water and nice parks.

And if we don't like the looks of government prioritizing its proper Adam Smithian role of investing in public goods, we can go right back our centrally planned, crony capitalist Do-Guard-Your-Profits-onomics.

Legislators, who's game? You can make that your agenda now... or I can just save that up for our Democratic gubernatorial candidate's platform in 2018.

6 comments

Hey, that's my neighbor Charlie Johnson on the YouTube!

Actually, it's an ad from the Organic Farmers' Agency for Relationship Marketing. But it's also a great nutshell explanation of the Organic farming philosophy Charlie inherited from his dad Bernard: "What goes on this land has to go on our tongue first." (I invite you to take up with Charlie what that means about his use of manure as fertilizer.)

4 comments

Governor Dennis Daugaard's push for more mega-dairies has drawn legal action against Brookings County from Hendricks, Minnesota. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the Hendricks City Council has "filed a lawsuit" against Brookings County to stop the 3,999-head concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) that Michael Crinion wants to build near Oak Lake. Brookings County approved the conditional-use permit for the dairy, over the protest of Hendricks residents who are concerned that manure from the CAFO will drain into Lake Hendricks and degrade water quality.

The lawsuit appears to be an appeal of the zoning decision filed jointly by the Hendricks City Council and the Lake Hendricks Improvement Association on November 3.

Hendricks residents are bent out of shape over this dairy because they may see millions they've invested in clean water go to waste:

The fight for cleaner water in Lake Hendricks started with area farmers converting to lake-friendly land uses on thousands of acres around the lake. They planted 22 miles of buffer strips and other vegetation designed to stop runoff of sediment and nutrients. Together with sewage and stormwater improvements by lake cabin owners and by the surrounding wastewater districts, the cleanup has cost more than $5 million, [Hendricks mayor Jay] Nelson said.

In one recent project, 22 property owners on the South Dakota side of Lake Hendricks and 44 homeowners on the Minnesota side each invested an average of $12,000 in septic improvements, including hookups to the Hendricks city sewer district. Another $1.5 million has been spent on environmental testing and research, the mayor said.

“Our town’s major concern is that we’ve spent millions to clean up our lake, and it’s an unfinished job,” Nelson said. “Any runoff from this dairy would end up in Lake Hendricks” [Tony Kennedy, "The Border War over Cleaned-up Lake Hendricks," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 2014.12.01].

Governor Daugaard's policy man Nathan Sanderson tells the Star-Trib the Oak Lake dairy is just one component of the state's push to double its dairy herd and provide more milk for the new state-subsidized Bel Brands cheese factory in nearby Brookings. He sneers at the Hendricks protesters, "We have an approach in South Dakota where we are open for business.... We’re not attempting to hinder business in any way."

But Hendricks residents see South Dakota hindering their business, which they say relies on clean water:

The location of this dairy, in our opinion, poses a great risk to Lake Hendricks and the surrounding area. The proposed location is within the Deer Creek Watershed District, which is the main supply of new water to Lake Hendricks. The waste management plan for the dairy calls for the continued application of their waste product to surrounding fields—all of which will create additional runoff issues when draining into Lake Hendricks. If this happens, we could see a reduction of water quality in the lake, which in turn will impact tourism, fishing, camping and other recreational and economic benefits that are enjoyed in the area [Lake Hendricks Improvement Association, letter to residents, quoted in Tammy Mathison, "Lake Hendricks Improvement Assoc. Letter Explains Reasons for Appeal," Hendricks Pioneer, 2014.11.28].

South Dakota's push for economic development now butts up against Minnesota's in a battle of milk and poop versus water.

39 comments

The Lake County Commission delayed action this week on a conditional use permit for a private campground on the southeast side of my beloved Lake Herman. Terry and Bev Timmer acquired Larry Dirks's land and proposed building a campground up the hill from the lake in 2012. Timmers have done the first phase, doing dirt work for 16 campsites and installing septic systems. They now seek a permit to move more dirt and add 20 campaign pads. But the county said hold your horses when the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Timmers are in violation of their existing state General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Construction Activity.

Uff da—what's it take to get DENR to jump on a developer? Oh, maybe the developer getting cited for violations in July, ignoring the DENR's request for a report on fixing those violations, and leaving violations for the DENR to find still occurring in November?

That's the story that comes from the inspections conducted and letters sent to Terry Timmer by DENR water quality engineer Jill Riedel. During an inspection in early June, Riedel found dirt washing off the campground construction site onto adjoining land due to inadequate sediment controls. Timmers also appear not to have filed the Storm Water Pollution prevention Plan required by their construction permit. Riedel's July 24, 2014, letter documented those violations and asked for a response by August 4.

Riedel's November 14, 2014, letter indicates that Timmers never wrote back. The latter letter, with more bold type and "WARNING LETTER" printed at the top, includes a report from Riedel's November 7 inspection finding several violations unaddressed.

Photos 7 & 8, taken by Jill Riedel, DENR engineer, inspection of Timmer campground site, Lake Herman, South Dakota, 2014.11.07, included in warning letter from DENR to Terry Timmer, 2014.11.14

Photos 7 & 8, taken by Jill Riedel, DENR engineer, inspection of Timmer campground site, Lake Herman, South Dakota, 2014.11.07, included in warning letter from DENR to Terry Timmer, 2014.11.14 (click to embiggen!)

DENR expects a reply by November 26. To perhaps focus Timmers' attention, Riedel reminds them, in bold type, that "violations of the general permit can subject you to enforcement action, including penalties of up to $10,000 per day per violation."

$10,000 a day? If the construction site has been in violation for 108 days (let's be generous and just count from the day they were supposed to reply in August), that's over a million bucks DENR could ask for. (Yo! Governor Daugaard! Does the state have any lawyer bills it needs paid?) I don't know what Timmers plan to charge for a night of camping, but if they're going to compete with Lake Herman State Park just up the shore at $19 a night (and really, Timmers will need to charge less, since they offer no trails, less shade, less room for the kids to play, much less shoreline, and a harder to find gravel road for access), but it would take 36 campsites 1,579 days (15 summers!) to generate the revenue necessary to cover that bill.

Since Timmers won't have 36 campsites until the county approves their second conditional use permit, and since that approval won't happen until DENR is happy, maybe the Timmers need to stop disregarding environmental rules and pay more attention to their erosion controls and their paperwork.

10 comments

Stace Bare is a big man; he fits in my Bug the way Captain Kirk fit that K'normian trading ship through the passage between the approaching Klingon structures. He served in the Army in Bosnia and Iraq. He came back to America in 2007 with big problems: post-traumatic stress, adjustment disorder, depression and brain injury. After self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, Bare found salvation (yes, he uses the word saved, and later the word grace) in rock-climbing and the great big wilderness.

That's why he now directs Sierra Club Outdoors. That's why he takes fellow veterans on wilderness adventures. That's why he thinks the 1964 Wilderness Act is one of the best health care laws we have ever passed.

About a half hour after my TEDx Brookings talk, Stace Bare stood up in his hometown and delivered this oratorical masterpiece. (Again, what do you expect? He graduated from Brookings High School, and he debated for Judy Kroll.) He weaves personal pain and growth, American history, and love of nature into a compelling call to go outside:

Next time you hear someone call the Sierra Club and environmentalists in general a bunch of liberal un-American tree huggers, send them this video. Let big Stace Bare explain to them why the wilderness is essential to America's health and identity and why protecting that wilderness is a patriotic and humanitarian duty.

22 comments

Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Rick Weiland visited the Lakota spiritual camp protesting the Keystone XL pipeline near Ideal on Friday:

Rick Weiland at Keystone XL protest camp, Ideal, South Dakota, 2014.10.17.

Rick Weiland at Keystone XL protest camp, Ideal, South Dakota, 2014.10.17.

Looks like the Indians have a cowboy on their side. Contrary to John Tsitrian's read, opposition to Keystone XL resonates beyond the traditional reservation vote.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is leading opposition to Keystone XL with Oyate Wahacanka Woecun, "Shield the People," which is building alliances to keep the black snake from the north out of South Dakota. This video explains their protest as a mix of spiritualism (I should be nervous) and a practical commitment to protecting the basic necessities of life.

Shield The People - Oyate Wahacanka from Oyate Wahacanka on Vimeo.

For some people, Rick Weiland in on the side of the spirits. But for all of us, Weiland's on the side of good stewardship of the earth that keeps us all alive.

29 comments

Big Ag groups in South Dakota are raising a stink about the EPA's latest proposed regulations to keep our water clean. As we know, this industry-manufactured fuss is mostly myth. The EPA is using science to make clear, consistent rules to protect South Dakota tourism and agriculture.

Mike Rounds won't let truth stop him from advocating that we "shut down" the EPA. But wait—an eager notes that shutting down the EPA would pull the rug out from under farmers who count on the EPA to maintain the ethanol mandate. Rounds liked the federal subsidy that boosted ethanol. Rounds's fellow farm-state Republicans really want the EPA to stick around and force folks to buy more ethanol.

Perhaps Rounds should ask to change his answer: he doesn't really want to shut the EPA down. He just though the E stood for "Ethanol," not "Environment."

2 comments

Mike from Iowa asked for a close-up of bluestem grass. Can do, Mike!

Bluestem, also known as turkey foot, also known as "ice cream for cattle." (CAH, 2014.08.21)

Bluestem, also known as turkey foot, "ice cream for cattle," and the key to putting the prairie back to work. (CAH, 2014.08.21)

Carter Johnson showed me this native grass and a whole lot more on his EcoSun Prairie Farm on a hot summer morning last week. I've written about Johnson's prairie farm and its philosophy before. The SDSU ecology professor gave a stirring speech on his vision for a working prairie at TedX Brookings last winter. But I wanted to see the Prairie Farm for myself.

Read the rest of this entry...

18 comments

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