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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Daugaard Economic Plan: More of the Same?

Dennis Daugaard released a plan for jobs and economic growth. Alas, it appears to be more of the "South Dakota is all bunnies and rainbows" fluff his marketers have pumped out for Governor Rounds for the last eight years. Daugaard maintains that if we just play to our same old strengths—low taxes, best business climate in the country, and keeping that darned government away from us—everything will be hunky-dory.

Some key points:
  1. "I won’t raise taxes, except in the case of an emergency like a blizzard or a flood." Apparently an eight-year-old structural deficit does not count as an emergency.
  2. "I will elevate the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) to cabinet-level and appoint a strong person to lead that office." So sometimes we do want bigger, stronger government.
  3. Daugaard does acknowledge that the promise of low taxes is not enough to attract new businesses, since new businesses often run losses that mean they don't pay much in taxes anyway. He wants to offer businesses "the complete package," emphasizing all the other business and quality of life advantages South Dakota offers. This sounds reasonable... but it concerns me a little, as it represents perhaps too much faith in the status quo. That's a philosophy I see coming out of Madison's marketing-obsessed promoters: Life is great here! We just need more banners and ads! It's a comfy philosophy that avoids upsetting voters... but it also runs the risk of closing our eyes to problems we need to fix.
  4. Daugaard blames some problems on things that don't exist, like the "federal takeover of health care" (the pending bills do no such thing) and the EPA shutdown of Big Stone II (the EPA is creating jobs at the current plant, and Otter Tail saw cap-and-trade legislation as a benefit to its plans, if only Congress would have gotten in gear and passed it!).
  5. Daugaard sees pumping money into economic development and recapitalizing the REDI fund as investments, not expenditures.
  6. Daugaard wants to create "small-town specialists"—hmm... is the Rural Learning Center in Howard about to get a lot busier training some rural economic development specialists?
  7. Daugaard plans to lobby Congress to let us tax Internet sales. Wasn't that Rounds's plan eight years ago? How long will we keep waving this magic wand? And wait: isn't raising taxes off the table? "This is not an 'internet tax' or a new tax. This proposal would merely allow the state to collect taxes that are already owed, but are not paid, on internet-based sales." Ah.
There's much more in Daugaard's 20-some page document. Stay tuned!

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