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Monday, January 26, 2009

South Dakota Budget: Step One Is Open Government

Kevin Woster has blogged it. David Newquist has mentioned it in an e-mail, as has Sam Kephart. And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense: open government may be the root of our state budget problem.

Lots of us South Dakotans are getting our dander up over the state budget and the cuts proposed by Governor Rounds (well detailed by Dr. Newquist, who identifies the governor's targeting of "culture, education, workers, and the disadvantaged"). The volume and number of voices is rising, and that's good: the more people speaking up and making clear their budget priorities, the better chance we have of seeing a budget that attends to the popular will.

But how can we make a budget if we don't have all the information about the budget? We have a need and a right to see the public records of our own state government's activities, yet Governor Michael Rounds maintains the position that records are private until proven public. He blows a little smoke about protecting individual rights, but really, his position boils down to an arrogant elitism. He's really saying, "I get to look at the information, and you don't."

We also need more open contracts. Sam Kephart writes that the governor has issued 3,400 no-bid contracts in the last twelve months. The Board of Regents has similar power to offer "no-bid contracts and exclusive supplier arrangements" [Kephart, e-mail, 2009.01.25].

If our budget really requires serious fixing, everyone involved in the budget—legislators, workers, vendors, taxpayers, the whole bunch of us—need the most complete picture possible of how that budget works. We need to know we are spending our money as efficiently as possible. Toward that end, every transaction of our money must be open to bid and review to every citizen of this state, not just the handful privileged to go to work on the second floor of the Capitol.

Everybody from President Obama to Governor Rounds's pal Sarah Palin, from Senate Majority Leader Dave Knudson to Sibby, says good government is open government. Governor Rounds should boot his old "It's good to be king!" thinking and accept that all those papers he signs really belong to us.


  1. Our state budget problem is that the Governor spends more money each year to do the same thing. Next year's budget shouldn't be any greater than this year's budget. Keep everything zero-based and we'll be fine.

    What about raises? Be more efficient and use technology to do the job with less people.

    Bigger government is not the solution - it is the problem. Ridding ourselves of the old may be uncomfortable but it needs to be done. We need to get used to less services. My father was right when he said that we've become too soft and we really don't know what hard times are. Poor used to mean starvation, but now it means an air-conditioned apartment with cable TV.

  2. Cory, If we have a surplus, someone must be doing something right. The school for the deaf should have been looked at long ago, when the CEO is making over $800,000 per year. I believe the CEO for Sioux Falls Red Cross pulls down $450,000. Is this good government? No, look at the city of Sturgis and their surplus. Why do they have it? Because they shop around. Proverb 14-23: All hard work brings in profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. I suggest people quit the cheap talk and take action. Spearfish is opening up a free Healthcare Medical Clinic on Monday night. Get this Cory, it is at the Luthern Church. Many churches establish drives for food, clothing, family assistance. That is real action. Not just mere bantering on a blog. This is what I mean by doing something positive. What have the aetheist done for you lately.

  3. "Searaven" (again, can you not ditch the silly name and be yourself?), how on earth did you get a master's degree if you are this genetically incapable of staying on topic?


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