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Welfare State: South Dakota Third-Most Dependent on Feds for State Budget

Governor Dennis Daugaard and other leading South Dakota Republicans do not trust the federal government's ability to sustain funding enough to expand Medicaid.

They do, however, trust the federal government enough to fund 41.5% of state functions:

A report released this week by the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan research think tank based in Washington, D.C., said 41.5 percent of South Dakota's general fund dollars in Fiscal Year 2012 came from federal transfers — the third highest percentage of all states in the country.

In FY 2015, that percentage is slightly lower at 39.6 percent, said Gov. Dennis Daugaard's budget chief, Jason Dilges [Steve Young, "South Dakota Ranks High for Federal Financial Support," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.05.16].

Pardon me: 39.6%.

Being a large, rural state with a sparse population means depending on federal support is almost unavoidable. But Joy Smolnisky of the South Dakota Budget and Policy Project says we also make choices that increase our dependence on Uncle Sam:

"Don't let the stand-alone fact that we get a higher percentage of federal money than other states do suggest something else," she said. "No, we just collect less from ourselves."

Dilges doesn't disagree. "The policy makers in our state have decided we want to keep taxes lower for our citizens," he said. "As a result, we try to get as much federal participation as we can" [Young, 2014.05.16].

Suppose a woman on the street said, I choose to work fewer hours at McDonald's, so I'm going to apply for more food stamps. We'd take offense, right? We'd shout about the need for responsibility and self-reliance, right?

Well, didn't he Governor's budget chief just say the same thing? We choose to spend less of our own wealth on our needs, so we try to get more federal assistance.

If Republicans are going to keep telling us that government budgets work like family budgets, when will South Dakota Republicans start applying the same kitchen-table responsibility they preach to working folks to our own state budget decisions?


  1. Rorschach 2014.05.20

    Yes Cory. The governor's budget chief just said that we don't want to pay for our own needs so we get some other state's taxpayers (and our grandkids) to pay for our needs for us.

  2. Rorschach 2014.05.20

    I should have said needs and wants.

  3. Donald Pay 2014.05.20

    Here's the irony. Liberals in blue states have been paying for decades to subsidize the sick and twisted lifestyles of South Dakota conservatives. But conservatives are trying to turn every state into a taker state, like South Dakota. Conservative policies in the 1980s turned Michigan from a blue state to a red state. They used to pay more into the federal treasury than the took out. Now they are a taker state, like South Dakota, thanks to conservative policies. That same dynamic is playing out in Wisconsin. Gradually, under Walker, conservative policies are hollowing out the middle class here as the rich become more wealthy. Wisconsin will soon be, if it isn't already a taker state, thanks to conservative policies.

    The question for conservatives is what happens when all the states are hollowed out by conservative policies, and no state is able to bail you out?

  4. Bill Fleming 2014.05.20

    Don, Jared Diamond posed a similar question in one of his books, the title of which is perhaps the answer to your question: Collapse.

  5. Jerry 2014.05.20

    Thankfully we have the Federal government! Whenever I hear our clowns speak of Washington spending, I just have to laugh. Some speak on this blog of a disconnect with voters on issues, I say there is a disconnect with voters on reality. Without that pesky Washington spending, there would be no South Dakota, which would probably be a good thing for the first mortgage holders, the tribes.

  6. owen reitzel 2014.05.20

    My question Cory is why can't we turn those numbers into Democrat votes?

  7. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.20

    Interestingly, Minnesota's legislature just appropriated 22 million bucks to finish the Lewis and Clark pipeline to Luverne and Rock County. All of he other stake holders including the chiefs of L&C here in SD, have been pissing and moaning because the Feds are not coming through with the monies that they promised when the pipeline (one of those pesky earmarks) was started.

    Sioux Falls is getting ready to spend the flood levy money which the Federal government came through with after the City had bonded to finish the project. They/we are spending it on a new indoor pool, which of course is long overdue, but should be paid for by local government, as should have been the levy. I am sure that levy as well as the Federal Highway money (Hunh?????) to move the railroad tracks in downtown Sioux Falls which was appropriated in 2005 and still has not been completed although a few million have been spent on studies and such, are not included in the money that the State of South Dakota gets in the form of largesse from the hated federal government.

    When our staunchest conservative voice in Sioux Falls, Rick Knobe, was mayor, he always had a way of being at the head of the line at the federal trough to get our share of the pork barrel money. He was so good at it that Aberdeen hired him to do the lobbying in DC to get money for Aberdeen.

  8. Steve Huff 2014.05.20

    Boom goes the dynamite. Seriously, how folks cannot see through the hypocritical double speak that pervades current political decision makers. It is not a matter of political affiliation or ideology. It is a matter of being sick of people in governance who say one thing and do another.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.20

    Dynamiting the failing worldview of Republicans is what we're all about here, Steve. Boom!

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.20

    Good link, Larry! Thank goodness Uncle Sam is there to hand Denny checks to hand to South Dakota towns.

  11. Craig 2014.05.20

    I'd be curious if they included funds for the two Federal Interstates that the state maintains, the dollars that go towards the Federal Mt. Rushmore monument and the funds used to manage the protected forests and grasslands we have in the Black Hills. If so, it is slightly misleading isn't it?

    Highly populated states have Federal highways too, but as a percentage of their overall transportation budget they make up a much smaller piece of the pie. Same is true for land managed by the department of the Interior - we have quite a bit when compared to our total land mass, so it has an impact.

    I'm sure some of the funds are due to how our state is managed, but I'm sure there is a large percentage tied to things which are essentially outside of our control. Same is true for those numbers that say for every dollar we send to DC, we get $1.X back... they always tend to ignore those pesky details like Ellsworth AFB, the funds that the BIA provides to our Reservation system, and our Interstate Highways.

    As with most things, I'm sure there is far more to the story than a few talking points.

  12. Steve Sibson 2014.05.20

    Anybody come to the conclusion that both Democrats and Republicans want to spend federal money, which leads to the question, so why are both sides pointing fingers?

  13. MJL 2014.05.20

    This also goes back to the myth that Daugaard's cuts impacted everyone in the government equally. Sure, he may have cut the budgets of some groups by 10 % of state funding, but the Federal funding makes up a huge chunk of many of the budgets in Pierre.

  14. Bill Fleming 2014.05.20

    Steve, that is the main reason for Congress...its Constitutional mandate. To raise, print, and spend money on behalf of the Federal Government. This would be true regardless of which political party you are talking about. Anyone who hasn't "come to that conclusion" hasn't read the Constitution.

    Further, in a nutshell, the whole of US politics is centered around the question "Who gets the money?" If you're advocating for something different from that, your ideas might be interesting, but they aren't Constitutional.

  15. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.05.20

    Who are #1 and #2?

  16. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.20

    Cory, you and a lot of others on here need to try to keep up. As Steve and Mr Sibson are trying to point out, it is not a matter of political party or for that matter even ideology at this point. Both political parties are in cahoots to taking us down a path that would make our forefathers tremble.

    If you think that the Clintons are any better than the Bushes or vice versa, you aren't paying attention. They are all four in favor of one world government. It is a amazing to me that the Democrats in South Dakota are patting themselves on the back for the minimum wage amendment that would raise that wage here to 9.25 over three years and then tie it to a COLA, that any senior citizen can tell you is a joke.This at a time when fast food workers nationwide are talking about going on strike for 15 bucks an hour.

    As a senior, figuring my two small pensions and my social security based on a 40 hour week and a 52 week year, figures out to 12.32 per hour. I would hate to try to take care of a family of four on that kind of wage. Not only are the Democrats part of the problem, they are the problem. They, as loyal opposition to the right, have allowed this country to drift further and further to the right, to the point where Richard Nixon looks liberal, compared to the last three Democrat Presidents.

    I get a kick out of Mr Sibson and others who would posit that Obama is a Neo Marxist. Karl Marx would be ashamed to have his name linked with anything that is now being called marxist or socialist. When Bill Clinton was President, he got a bill passed (and I am not saying this is completely wrong) that the longest folks could get food stamps, was two years. That was a big change from prior years where folks abused that system. But that doesn't take into consideration the past 5 1/2 nearly six years since the economic collapse in 2008. A lot of folks who lost their job then are still either un or under employed. So the bill passed in the Clinton years does not fix the problem. All it does is throw a one size fits all blanket over the situation.

    Better stop now and take my shots.

  17. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.20

    I should have said stop and let all of you take your shots.

  18. mike from iowa 2014.05.20

    Deb-Miss was #1 and Louisiana was #2. I tried and failed to copy and paste Table 9 in Tax Foundation report.

  19. mike from iowa 2014.05.20

    Clinton's biggest problem was kowtowing to wingnuts that were bound and determined to impeach him as payback for Nixon's resignation. I believe it was former Senator Simpson that said he had no idea why wingnuts wanted to impeach a Democrat Potus they could work with. I also noticed wingnuts haven't mellowed over impeaching Dems and may never get over it.

  20. Tim 2014.05.20

    Yea Mike, if they take the senate back this year, I would bet a paycheck the first thing they do in 15 is start impeachment of Obama.

  21. Roger Cornelius 2014.05.20

    An attempt to impeach President Obama would produce a battle of near Civil War proportions.

    Think about that!

  22. mike from iowa 2014.05.20

    Their next move would be to impeach the liberal activist Scotus justices and replace them with 10 year old Rust Limpaw clones so they could control the judiciary for everybody's lifetime.

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