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Friday, January 23, 2009

SD Budget Cuts: Yeas and Nays

A common theme in the commentary from legislators and others about the do-over state budget proposal yesterday was that everyone can find something Governor Rounds proposes to cut that we'd rather not cut. Whatever your pet project, you will not hear me say that you should be quiet and be good team player. Even in a budget crisis (are we using that word yet?), in politics, the way to be a team player is to engage in passionate advocacy for your program. For instance, I support the governor's proposal to end the state subsidy for the State Fair. But I suspect Senator Tom Hansen will hear from a lot of his Huron neighbors urging him to fight to save that subsidy. That advocacy, that defense of Huron's interest in keeping that state money flowing into their economy, is perfectly justified. Politics works best when everybody comes to the table and makes their case. Unquestioning conformity and submission produce worse results than vigorous debate and hard-won compromise.

For what it's worth, here's my quick take on some of the cuts proposed:
  • State Fair subsidy: Yes. It was a bad idea even when times were good.
  • School for the Deaf: Can we really serve the needs of these kids by closing the school and diverting resources to outreach? I'll need more numbers on that.
  • TCAP: This program give teachers extra pay for extra training and work over the summer. It's better than nothing, but it still enshrines the idea that we pay teachers plenty as it is, and that they don't deserve a penny more unless they jump through more hoops. I don't want to take away an opportunity for teachers to scrape together a few more dollars, but TCAP hasn't been the right approach to establishing better long-term teacher salaries.
  • State arts programs: I hear from my friends at the Brookings Arts Council that the Governor would eliminate the state arts council. But do this, and we lose our cut of federal arts money. Why hit ourselves with that double whammy? Make some cuts, but maintain enough of a program to qualify for that federal money and leave the infrastructure in place to expand the program again when the economy rebounds.
  • Mosquito control: Um, West Nile, anyone? Instead, let's reverse the increase the governor is proposing for snowmobile-trail grooming (come on: real men don't need a groomed trail).
There's a lot more to read. Stay tuned, and talk to your legislators!


  1. Can teachers still retire and then go back to teaching parttime and essentially double dip at the state trough? That would be one item that could be cut if it is still going on.

  2. The Governor has not cut deep enough in employee layoffs. Each department should cut their expenses by no less than 3%, which would mean layoffs and removal of programs. Sometimes it can be as simple as reducing travel, printing, office supplies and things like new furniture or freezing new programs to reach a 3% reduction. He also has hundreds of millions in reserve accounts to tap from federal tobacco settlement money to the sale of the state's cement plant and many others like sale of the railroad fund. While those funds are down right now due to investment, they are substantial and that's why we have "reserves" for a rainy day.

  3. IF the legislature had a collective pair the governor's budget would be DOA.

  4. With all the federal programs to ensure that public schools provide equal educational opportunities for all students regardless of physical challenge, are separate, sparsely-populated facilities for blind and deaf students simply redunancies we can do without?

  5. school for the deaf has 30 students in house and serves 388 through outreach. It makes fiscal sense to support the outreach aspect. Any other state supported K-12 high school would be hard pressed to receive funding for 30 students. It's the only school in the state, but there are schools for the deaf in Minnesota and Iowa.


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