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Friday, February 27, 2009

Thune, Johnson, Herseth Sandlin Join Unemployment Stimulus Battle with Rounds

South Dakota's Congressional delegation seems to be making some uncharacteristic incursions into state politics this week. In response to Governor Rounds's signaled rejection of 0.89% of the federal stimulus money coming South Dakota's way, both of our senators took sides, with Senator Thune backing the governor and Senator Johnson telling him to take the money.

I note with interest Senator Thune's argument against accepting the unemployment money:

"These governors are going to have to shut off these programs (once the money runs out) and how do you tell somebody enrolled in the program that they’re no longer going to be eligible for it" [reported by Ledyard King, "Johnson Says Rounds Shouldn’t Turn Away Federal Unemployment Aid," that Sioux Falls paper, 2009.02.25].

That's funny: I thought Republicans were all about shutting off programs. Thune sounds like a bleeding heart Washington liberal to me. ;-)

Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has also weighed in, going point by point against the arguments Governor Rounds and some of his GOP pals have made:
  • The stimulus law does not require states to maintain any unemployment insurance rule changes past the duration of the stimulus money.
  • Unemployment benefits are among the best stimulus tools available.
  • Taking the stimulus money now will actually avert a UI tax increase on employers this year (just as the governor's labor secretary is trying to tell him).
I'm of the impression that our representatives in Washington don't often challenge decisions in Pierre. But there's enough at stake with the unemployment stimulus—boosting the economy, making the most of federal dollars, and helping our neighbors—that our Congresspeople can justify spending a little political capital to back or rebut the governor's action.


  1. Herseth said SD wouldn't have to contnue the program after the stimulus money ran out. Wanna bet? Think the legislature would be able to turn off the spigot once it was turned on? They haven't been able to cut any programs this year and we are out of money. Maybe Rounds is just trying to protect the state's future.

  2. Stephanie had better watch it. She might not want to be too visible in the state as supporting this porky pig bill if she is thinking of running again.

  3. Anon@5:53 - bull feathers. Twice South Dakota sunset tax provisions -once we used a temporary provision to buy a railroad.

  4. The stimulus law does not require states to maintain any unemployment insurance rule changes past the duration of the stimulus money.

    Representative Herseth-Sandlin says that? Okay. On "Dakota Midday" last week, I heard Governor Rounds assert that the law would require that the unemployment-insurance rule changes be made permanent.

    It seems to me that we have a "she-said-he-said" contradition here. What am I missing?

  5. Listen closely to Rounds: I think every pronouncement he's made on the issue as used the word "could." There is no such requirement in the stimulus law; he's worried he won't be able to muster the political will to reverse the rule-change once it's in effect. And as Anon Bull Feather says, there are ways to avoid that problem. We can sunset any unemployment insurance changes, just like Russ Olson is sunseting the capital outlay changes in his SB 91.


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