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Tulson, Greenfield: Legislature Doesn’t Trust Local Governments

Last week, District 2 Reps. Lana Greenfield (R-2/Doland) and Burt Tulson (R-2/Lake Norden) both bucked the GOP leadership and voted for House Bill 1216, a measure proposed by Democratic Rep. Dennis Feickert (D-1/Aberdeen) to lift the cap on annual property tax increases. HB 1216 would have wrought a historic change in Janklow-era tax reform. Governor Dennis Daugaard opposed it, and the Republican majority killed it last week Wednesday.

At the Presidents' Day crackerbarrel at the Redfield Depot, Reps. Tulson and Greenfield responded to concerns from Spink County Sheriff Kevin Schurch and a Spink County Commissioner about jail costs by referring to their vote for HB 1216 as an effort to help counties get money to take care of such needs. Both Tulson and Greenfield criticized their Legislature for talking the talk but not walking the walk on local control:

Key comments:

Rep. Tulson: "I was a county commissioner, and many of you here have been there, or township board people. I trust you. You are not going to tax yourself unless you really see a need, not a want, but a need. I trust you, but... I don't know where it comes from, the trust that you guys couldn't do and make that decision yourself doesn't seem to be there in the Legislature."

Rep. Greenfield: "We always are so concerned about saying we need to have you manage it locally, and then we try to micromanage by voting for things that strap you.... I was disappointed that that cap didn't come off. It doesn't show much faith or trust in the local people" [crackerbarrel, Redfield, South Dakota, 2015.02.16].

It's not just me: even faithful Republicans like Reps. Tulson and Greenfield recognize that the talk of local control in the Capitol is a sham. The Republican majority doesn't trust local leaders to spend real money to fund basic government needs.


  1. grudznick 2015.02.16

    The mistrust probably stems from all the money that local school boards squirrelled away instead of giving good teachers raises they paved some fat cat parking spots and built new football stadiums.

  2. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.16

    Good. The more Republicans become fed up with government by oligarchy, the better and more responsive government will become.

  3. Jeff Barth 2015.02.16

    HB1216 was a good bill. But the cost causer for so many county expenses is alcohol abuse which is why I support raising the tax on booze.

    The state has a surplus, some cities are "swimming' in money. It can be argued that enough tax is collected but the distribution is wrong.

  4. CLCJM 2015.02.17

    I completely agree with Deb and Jeff. Grudz, most school districts have very little extra cash just squirreled away. There may be some capital outlay funds building up for new facilities and improvements. This is called saving for future needs which is true fiscal responsibility! But Republicans, with a few exceptions, label this as having too much loose cash just sitting around or somehow being wasteful. I took a Dave Ramsey financial education course which taught that you save up for everything, use credit only for a mortgage and only then with a hefty down payment. So why is it that our legislators want our school districts to do the opposite? Don't know what kind of economics they use but it doesn't match anything I've been taught!

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.17

    Jeff, on that note, Sheriff Schurch said at the Redfield crackerbarrel that he has studied his operations (i.e., he wasn't just talking off the top of his head) and finds that alcohol is responsible for 80% to 90% of his costs.

  6. Wayne B. 2015.02.17

    If you listened to the House Taxation committee meeting, you'd hear the ringer for why we shouldn't lift the cap; property taxes have increased in the share of the pie for country revenue (i.e. counties rely more heavily on property tax revenue now more than ever). Removing that cap would further burden property owners. The ONLY thing keeping Minnehaha county from 6% increases every year is that cap.

    Maybe what we ought to do is redistribute the state share of the sales tax - allow the counties to generate 1 cent and the state generates 3 cents. That'd give economic engine counties like Minnehaha, Pennington, Brown and Davison the resources to deal with the challenges they face (of course, the state will then have to cut back the support it gives, but dollars stay more local that way and allow for local control and expansion/contraction with the local economy).

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.17

    The only thing, Wayne? Would the Minnehaha County Commission, with its four Republicans and one Democrat, really go ape and pass 6% increases every year?

    I'm all for allowing counties a share of the sales tax, plus some of the booze tax that Commissioner Barth suggests. Why should country folks see every penny of their sales tax go the town where they buy their groceries and none of it go to the county that plows the road so they can get to town to buy those groceries?

  8. Jana 2015.02.17

    I wonder why it is that the good old boys in Pierre take pride in their gigantic rainy day fund, but then chastise school districts for the same thing?

    Grud, you seem to be the biggest detractor of those school rainy day funds, what do you think?

  9. Wayne B. 2015.02.17

    They did it before the freeze, Cory.

    Before the tax freeze the average annual increase was 6% statewide (from testimony of the committee meeting). I don't see any compelling evidence things have changed. Minnehaha still increases their opt out on a regular basis. Removing the freeze would allow them to pass the costs onto property owners without seriously having to consider budget priorities before asking the voter's permission.

    I rather like having to be asked for permission, rather than forgiveness, for having my taxes raised. If the reason is justifiable, the populace will agree. But there's a limit; look at how Lincoln County is taxed, and how Tea School District is struggling with the opt out. There's a limit to how much you can squeeze.

  10. clcjm 2015.02.17

    I've been going to the Minnehaha Co. mtgs, including the one this morning. I have seen no indication that they are spending money willy-nilly. They have legitimate expenses and costs, many of which they can't control.
    Commissioner Dick Kelly brought up this morning that Rep. Don Haggar made a statement comparing the counties' budgets to a candy jar and basically implied that none of the commissioners can keep their hands out of the cookie jar! Jeff Barth said the legislators were invited to sit in on their budget discussions but never showed! Of course not. Easier to criticize if you ignore the harsh realities. but it makes for good political theater and sound bites!
    Yet Rounds GAVE away a total of $69 million dollars to the two Keystone pipelines out of the general fund just on his signature! Who can't keep their hands out of the candy jar?

  11. Wayne B. 2015.02.17

    CLCJM, I think the requirement to seek an opt-out of the tax freeze forces counties to do a better job looking at the expense side of the balance sheets. I don't think Minnehaha County is spending money "willy-nilly." However, if they are no longer required to ask permission before raising our taxes, do you honestly think they'd do as thorough a job controlling costs? It's tough work to really scour budgets for waste. Maybe they would, maybe not... but you hit on something important.

    We all acknowledge there are costs beyond their control. But that could become an easy excuse to keep jacking property taxes beyond inflation every year, like they used to in the 80s and 90s.

    I've talked to a lot of friends who have left Lincoln County because they couldn't afford the taxes anymore. What cost me $2400 in taxes in Minnehaha County would've surpassed $3200 in Lincoln. So I didn't buy in Lincoln County. I guess there are enough up-and-coming and well-to-do folks moving to Lincoln County to fill all those new builds... but the more average earners are really struggling.

    I'm getting to like my ad hoc idea to split sales tax - there's less random funds available to the state to do weird and frivolous economic development, and more for the counties. There'd be less ability for Rounds and Daugaard to give away sloshes of money (especially if we kept education funding levels constant).

  12. Joan Brown 2015.02.17

    Legislators don't trust local government and I don't trust the State legislators or the Federal House or Senate, either.

  13. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.17

    CLCJM and Jana, don't get concerned about Grudz and schools. He has some major issues with schools that he won't discuss and/or acknowledge. Or he's just trying to provoke energetic responses. He used to rail against those terrible, no good, nasty teachers. Now it's the "fat cat" administrators.

    Meh. Whatever.
    (Here's smiling at you Grudz.)

  14. Jana 2015.02.17

    Thanks Deb, and don't forget their over-privileged parking spots Grud likes to talk about.

  15. Lynn 2015.02.18

    The South Dakota Legislature has approved a proposal that calls for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget.

    Sen. Ernie Otten as a sponsor of this resolution why don't you and others who voted for this resolution sponsor a bill to refuse all federal aid and make South Dakota self sufficient. I'm sure our neighbor Minnesota which pays more in taxes than what it gets back in Federal funds would appreciate not having to pay for it's deadbeat neighbor to the west.

    Another productive legislative session!

  16. clcjm 2015.02.18

    I don't think our Minnehaha county commissioners need much, if any, arbitrary limits from Pierre to be responsible with our money. In fact, Dick Kelly, who particularly took offense at this analogy, is often so tight that he annoys me. He's probably the most conservative commissioner in Minnehaha county! So the assumption they, any of them, need to be controlled by the legislature is absurd.
    The Republicans use the motto, local control, to mislead and redirect like an illusionist. They use it to get what they want but when some other entity wants some responsible autonomy, they'll get slapped down pretty quick.
    Two issues this year that illustrate that quite well have to do with education in which they claim particularly to want to promote "local control". So they are trying to override the Board of Regents and student groups who adamantly oppose guns on campuses. And they are trying to override and take away the power of the, I think it's the Associated School Boards, ability to deal with gender identity issues in athletics. So what they really mean is local control is ok unless they don't like it.
    The fact that they tried to punish their own constituents for using the Initiated measure to put things like raising the minimum wage on the ballot is another proof of this. They tried to change the requirements so it would be nearly impossible to put anything on the ballot. That's what they really think about local control or people having any control over their own lives, let alone the government!

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