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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rounds Budget: Boost Physical Plant Pay by Cutting Chicoine's and Knowlton's?

Governor M. Michael Rounds pitched his state budget proposal yesterday for fiscal year 2011, the last such proposal of his administration (well, last, assuming he doesn't need a do-over budget as he did last time around). The new Madville Times poll (see the left sidebar!) asks what you think of it: does it spend too much, too little, or is it about right? Vote now!

I know those three poll options oversimplify the issue: there are at least as many different takes on what's good about the budget and what needs amending as there are legislators. Rep. Quinten L. Burg (D-22/Wessington Springs) floated one possible amendment yesterday on the post-game show on South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He disagrees with the governor's proposal to deny all state employees pay increases for the second year in a row. Sure, inflation has actually been negative this year (though I haven't seen Raisin Bran getting any cheaper), but if the economy recovers (the way Governor Rounds is counting on in his optimistic revenue projections for next year), isn't inflation bound to bounce back? (These forecasters think so.)

Rep. Burg's prescription for hard times: some in-house redistribution. Raise the salaries of state employees making under $75K (he might have given a lower number; check around!). Pay for those increases with 2% cuts for employees making $75K to $100K and 5% cuts for the state employees making more than $100K. Burg would help the janitors and groundskeepers—and most of the professors—at DSU weather the recession by asking President Douglas Knowlton and the deans to bite a tougher bullet. The university does already provide the president with a house; might he be able to take a pay cut for the general welfare?

This plan might be an even better fit for SDSU. President David Chicoine could probably get by with a 100% cut to his $300K salary from the Board of Regents, since he can supplement his income with the $400K in benefits he gets from serving on the corporate board of Monsanto.

Does Burg have a winner here? Do state employees at the bottom of the totem pole need a pay boost? Should we ask the state's upper management to take a cut for the team?

By the way, as a graduate assistant at DSU, I'm one of the state employees in the pay category Rep. Burg is looking to help. However, I'm done with my program in summer 2010, so any such pay boost won't affect me in my current position.


  1. The one place this could cause some trouble is for sure at SDSU and I'm quite sure at DSU in vying for top researchers. Researchers get grants that pay indirect charges that put money into university coffers so we can cover keep covering the dropping percentage of state support of higher ed.

    Those top researchers bring a lot of money into the school and an investment in them is worthwhile in that it pays off for the department, college and administration in short order!

    At least one part of this plan that could be problematic...

  2. I wonder if this budget will only increase the pressure on ffaculty to bring in more grant dollars to subsidize the expansions to higher ed that the state is unwilling/unable to fund itself. Rounds does at least appear to recognize the value of science, as that is the only discretionary area where he is asking for increases.

  3. I can't believe you two actually are complaining about the lack of funding to Higher Ed. Check out the history of funding to the Board of Regents during the Rounds administration before you make that false statement.

    And research grants are just another way for the taxpayers to fund costs that should be left to the private sector.

  4. Actually, Steve, I'm complaining about something different. There are three general positions one can take on this issue:

    (1) Gov't has no role in supporting higher education and research; it should be done privately (Steve's position).

    (2) Gov't has a role in supporting higher education and research, but South Dakota should lean on the federal government and other grant sources to pay for it (roughly the status quo position, as increases in higher ed funding have been brought in disproportionately by faculty hustling for grants and by the increasing tuition and fees on students, not by leadership from the Legislature).

    (3) Gov't has a role in supporting higher education and research, and if we really believe in it, we South Dakotans should be willing to put up the tax dollars for it ourselves (something like the position Patrick and I may have in mind).

    Yes, Steve, state tax dollars toward higher ed are up under Rounds, but they have stayed flat as a proportion of the general fund. The state has shifted a higher percentage of the funding burden to users of the system.

  5. Salaries are a huge problem @ Mines with retaining high producers. I know of two staff members who are taking positions at foreign universities starting Jan. 1 and May. 1 of 2010 because of this issue. They bring in vastly more dollars than they are paid, support many students, and generate huge amounts of overhead from their contracts for the school.

    However, the school (SD) doesn't have a progressive pay system in place, unlike most universities that do lots of research. Pay is simply based on seniority. So a staff member that teaches two classes a day and goes homes brings in as much as a staff member who also teaches 2 classes a day but brings in $500K+ per year and manages half a dozen students. The SD system doesn't even provide release time for $x dollars brought in to do the research! So, the only motivation that the researches have is to build their resume and move on...
    ...and research contracts follow the researcher. If it's awarded while at one university and the researcher moves, the balance moves with the researcher.

  6. Steve:

    Really, there is no explicit way to tell whether or not public funding of basic research has been a net good or bad for society. There are just too many variables. You either feel that the acquisition of knowledge is a public good and worthy of public funding or it is not.

    If left to companies, only certain, lucrative areas would receive funding and our knowledge of them furthered. So, those who work in less lucrative but without obvious value would not be funded. If this had occurred, many areas of huge value today would probably still be buried.

    Not all areas on the surface look valuable. Sometimes digging needs to be done before value can be extracted.

  7. Steve Sibson12/10/2009 5:49 PM

    "Really, there is no explicit way to tell whether or not public funding of basic research has been a net good or bad for society."

    I agree with that, and that is the problem. When research finds gold, the profits are privatized and the taxpayers/incestors get nothing. When the research doesn't pan out, the taxpayers are stuck with the lemon.

    This is what we call capitalism in America, and that is a lie. It is fascism/socialism and it is a violation of natural law that would instead leave this up to free markets.

    I am having a similiar discussion at the SDWC regarding tech schools that force taxpayers to pay for the job training on behalf of private companies. This is all wrong.

  8. Steve Sibson12/10/2009 5:53 PM

    "Yes, Steve, state tax dollars toward higher ed are up under Rounds, but they have stayed flat as a proportion of the general fund."

    Yes Cory, I understand that both political parties are for growing government and the fight is over who gets the bigger cut out of the taxpayers' pie.

  9. Steve Sibson12/10/2009 7:39 PM

    I am entering the state budget into my computer and just finished with the Board of Regents. Their total budget is up 23.2% from 2009 actual. That is over 135 million increaes with 90 million coming from the feds.

    Most businesses would consider a 23% increase in revenue during a recession...unheard of.


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