You ask, Gerry Lange answers! Here are Rep. Lange's responses, unedited and uneditorialized, to the other seven questions submitted in the Madville Times online crackerbarrel:
Question #1, from Michael Black: "All of South Dakota wants to know why the budget was put off until the last couple days of the session. It's the most important job of the legislature yet it seems that it received the least amount of attention. How can you justify weeks of inaction? By devoting more time to the budget could we not come up with a better package in the end?"
Rep. Lange: "The budget process is long and tedious with every agency, department, and university presenting their cases for more resources. Revenue estimates are projected, but never certain. Federal expenditures are especially unpredictable this year. That's why we are spending an extra day next Tuesday for wrap-up and vetoes. There has been 'action' on the budget throughout the session. Some bills have been run, like the one to fund the Homestake Mine experiments. We Democrats prevented the two-thirds majority required for this special bill because we objected to the source of that funding. It will be funded in the general bill, but not from moneys we thought should go to education and health care. Your concern, Mike, is a perennial one. Thanks for asking."
Question #2, from Neal McIntyre: "Why put off the decision on the budget in anticipation of possible bailout by the federal gov't once again? This only makes the state more dependent on the federal gov't. Call the bluff of the federal gov't, streamline our budget, and live within our means."
Rep. Lange: "Similarily, Neal, we agree that delay and dependence on the federal government is not good policy; the alternative, to tax ourselves is considered even worse by the powers that be here in South Dakota. 'Living winthin our means' makes sense for us who grew up with that ethic, but times have changed, I'm afraid, with the credit card and pay-day loan mentality prevelant now."
Question #3, from Steve Jacobsen: "I'm curious about the amendments to cut the budget of South Dakota Public Broadcasting. Do you know which lawmakers introduced these amendments? Why is this such a difficult thing to find out?"
Rep. Lange: "Steve, it should be on record who decided to cut SDPB. Probably happened in the Appropriations Committee or the Governor's office. It has happened before, along with proposed cuts in the Arts Council, but were later recinded. The public has to 'howl' loudly to get our attention. Threatening retaliation in the fall might work, too!"
Question #4, from Linda McIntyre: "Why did no one address no bid contracts?"
Rep. Lange: "Linda, ending 'no-bid' contracts is a key plank in Sen. Heidepriem's platform, endorsed by all of us Dems."
Question #5, from Steven Kant: "I would like to know if the legislature was aware that they would be expected to finance the Sanford Science Lab to the tune of over 5 million dollars while the State and the Federal agencies worked their magic! Seems like a huge amount of money to be allocated while all levels of education are experiencing freezes and cuts."
Rep. Lange: "Steven Kant: I think we were aware of the needs at the Sanford Lab, but, in our view, money should have been no problem. There are plenty of economic development funds available which are constantly revolving as businesses pay back their loans. If we could get our incarceration problem under control, the five million for the new prison in Rapid City would have been better invested in research."
Question #6, from Curtis Price: [see separate post!]
Question #7, from Chris Francis: "The Madison Area Arts Council has been vocal advocates of the Arts, and we've been actively serving our community for well over 40 years, providing for and improving the quality of life for everyone within the Madison Area and beyond. What do you see as the Arts & Cultural needs of the Madison Community, and surrounding communities within your district, and how do you think that this programming should be supported, from the private sector, from the city, or more from the state and federal levels?"
Rep. Lange: "Chris Francis, my belief is that a civilization defines itself by the level of arts it is willing to support. The decision by the Chester school board to teach the violin to fourth graders illustrates what visionary leaders can do for a community. (I've been talking it up trying to get something started here.) Madison, too, is on the cutting edge, but does not get the support it deserves. Enhancing the arts should be the mission of all levels of government, reinforced by private philanthropy, of course. Like Andrew Carnegie said, 'any man who dies rich dies disgraced!' ....something like that. "
Question #8 from Cory Allen Heidelberger: "The Madison Daily Leader reported last week that the proposed budget includes cuts in tech spending for the schools, including the DDN videoconferencing network and the K-12 Data Center. Please shed some light on just what these tech cuts will eliminate and what impacts that will have on the state budget, on local schools, and on DSU (which is involved in managing the k12.sd.us domain and services).
Rep. Lange: "Cory: 'YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!' There'll be a blood bath this fall if all of these vital program are cut...or at least, there ought to be that 'moment of truth' for any politician so myopic as to shift this state into reverse at a time like this!"
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