Last updated on 2012.10.29
Excellent! The 2012 Legislative campaign is going exactly as I planned. By placing three significant policy issues on the ballot, we voters have forced legislative candidates to talk about real substantial questions about our priorities in Pierre.
Nathan Johnson reports on the discussion of the three popular (as in created by the people, not as in people really like 'em) ballot measures that took place at a District 18 candidates' forum in Yankton Monday.
On Referred Law 14, Governor Daugaard's Large Project Development Fund, the candidates split predictably: the Republicans are for corporate welfare, the Democrats are against it.
Republican House candidate Mike Stevens boost RL14 by arguing a false dilemma: "I think the alternative is to do nothing. I think that is a worse alternative to what this bill is." No, Mike, the alternative is to invest that $18 million a year in public programs with proven benefit, like schools and roads.
Republican House candidate Thomas Stotz says we have to "spend a dollar to make a dollar." Stotz overestimates the return on investment. But that line could just as easily be applied to the businesses seeking handouts: if you want to make a dollar in South Dakota, you have to spend a few cents on schools, roads, parks, and the other public goods that create quality of life for you and your employees.
Amplifying that rebuttal, Demcoratic Rep. Bernie Hunhoff calls Referred Law 14 "nonsense."
We're wasting hundreds of millions of dollars across America on corporate welfare when that money could be spent on things state government can actually do.... The governor's office will put a small percentage of money into a project and then take credit for every job and tax dollar that comes from there from the day after. It's just nonsense. There are a dozen things that go into locating a project that are more important than taxes.... If taxes worked, every company in the country would be in South Dakota because we don't have a corporate income tax. Every company in America would be here if you could buy companies, but they are not here, are they? We need to build from the ground up with education [Bernie Hunhoff, quoted by Nathan Johnson, "Economic Development Law Prompts Opposing Views," Yankton Press & Dakotan, October 23, 2012].
Democratic candidate Charlie Gross says RL14 invites more waste like the needless $6.9 million in handouts we gave to TransCanada for the Keystone 1 pipeline that crosses the Missuori at Yankton. He and Democratic Senate candidate David Allen agree that we should keep that money in education.
Needing some education herself is Republican Senator Jean Hunhoff, who asserts that Referred Law 14 is similar to the REDI funds that have helped Yankton businesses expand. Memo to Jean: REDI provides low-interest loans; RL14 gives grants, a.k.a. free money the state never gets back.
Remarkably, there was no separation among the candidates on the other two ballot measures. All six said they oppose Initiated Measure 15, the extra-penny sales tax for K-12 education and Medicaid. All six said they oppose Referred Law 16, the Governor's really bad education reform plan.
That's disappointing only in one small way: at a candidate forum as in my own comment section, I like to hear conflicting views so voters can get a better picture of all the issues and make a decision at the ballot box. But I'm very glad to hear unanimous opposition to RL 16 from District 18's candidates. I'm glad we can count on District 18 to stand up against whatever efforts Governor Daugaard and his ideologues will make to restore their defeated anti-education agenda in Pierre in January.