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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sneak Peek: Stricherz on the Issues

Patricia Stricherz, candidate for District 8 House, forwards the Madville Times her responses to a questionnaire from the Mitchell Daily Republic. Who am I to turn down a scoop on tasty policy questions? Here are the questions, candidate Stricherz's answers (verbatim, unedited), and my own commentary:

1. What qualifications do you possess to be a state lawmaker?

Stricherz: In 1992 I joined the Army, was deployed to Kuwait and was awarded the Army Achievement Medal for my work to generate new computer based files that would assist 24th FSB Company in easily locating and identifying each work order, their status and the parts ordered. After the Army I worked several years in Retail Management. In 2003 I felt I needed a change of employment and began attending the University of Sioux Falls working on my BA in Social Work. This decision came as a result of my time as a CASA Volunteer as well as a Foster Parent. My junior year I had to drop out to care for my husband, who was injured during his deployment to Iraq. The last two years I have been running a nonprofit organization that provides emergency services to the troops and the families they leave behind during deployments. This is where my heart is. Speaking on behalf of our military hero’s and their families. This position has allowed me to gain experience advocating on behalf of families, fundraising, speaking publicly, organizing, training new volunteers, working with the media, and so much more. Locating the best service providers for home repairs, appliance repairs and vehicle repairs has given me additional speaking experience. The overall day to day functions of running a business has given me additional experience in balancing budgets, applying for grants and approaching donors for financial assistance and in-kind goods.

2. Roads have become an issue this year because of extensive flooding causing a lot of damage, forcing some counties to seek opt-outs or wheel taxes. What action do you think the state Legislature should take to assist counties and municipalities with funding? What proposal would you introduce?

Stricherz: Roads are an important part of our infrastructure that allows for the organizational structures needed for the operation of society. Allowing for the funding needed for regular maintenance is a necessity, allocating funding for emergency repairs is a must needed priority. In balancing the state budget, funds must be set aside for times such as these that counties and municipalities are currently experiencing. Cutting back on unnecessary spending, cutting failed and unsuccessful programs will give some additional funding for infrastructure. In today’s society we can not afford wasteful spending in our personal lives, expecting this same standard for our government should not be any less required.

CAH: I am heartened to hear a Republican who remembers that we do need government spending to maintain the basic "operation of society." However, the standard line about cutting wasteful spending represents wishful thinking, not hard fiscal analysis and decision-making. We face a 100-million-dollar state budget shortfall. I do not believe the state of South Dakota is currently wasting 100 million dollars. There's a strong argument to be made (especially by the counties trying to pass opt-outs and wheel taxes) that we need to spend more to fix our flood-ravaged roads and failing bridges. Candidates need to tell us exactly which $100-million-plus worth of programs they plan to cut to cover the deficit and the increasing road repair bill... or they need to be honest as the counties are and say, "You know what? We need to pay our own way with tax increases."

3. Do you think education is under funded in the state? If so, please explain how you would increase funding and where the money would come from? If not, please explain why you think that way.

Stricherz: Education is the foundation of our economic development, and the future of South Dakota’s economy depends upon creating highly-educated young South Dakotans. Currently, education takes 31% of the states budget, we need to work on increasing that number to no less than 36%. South Dakota schools perform at a high level and produce high quality students, in order to maintain this standard we must view education as an investment and not an expense. Therefore, it is important to the future of our schools to provide for a yearly increase in the funding that is available, one possible solution would be to lower property taxes and equalized the funds available to schools for operations. Another option would be to find alternate solutions to the schools laptop program. The 2.9 million dollars it takes to fund this program could instead be used to boost general state aid to schools.

CAH: For a moment there, Stricherz sounds like my man for governor Scott Heidepriem, who recognizes the state is failing to shoulder its share of the burden for funding education. But then Stricherz drops back to cutting taxes, which returns right back to the problem of the state doing less and expecting locals to do more. Even the reallocation of laptops may cause the same problem: the state may withdraw its tech support (the state dropped expansion of the classroom laptop program last year), but local schools will have to pick up the tab... and making each local school do its own tech support may only increase costs. Still open for debate: whether those school-supplied laptops are essential for education in the first place....

4. Gov. Mike Rounds has asked that state agencies and departments prepare a 2012 budget that should include a 10 percent decrease. Do you support or oppose a budget decrease? If not, please explain why you think that way.

Stricherz: I agree with Governor Rounds proposal that state agencies and departments decrease their budget by no less than 10%. As I stated above, we should expect no less from our government than to live by the same standards as that of our states citizens.

CAH: Ah, there's a step toward closing the $100 million shortfall. But does that include Board of Regents? Department of Transportation? Highway Patrol and Corrections? Again, I don't believe there's $100 million in waste, so I want to hear the good programs the governor and our legislators want us to do without.

5. Other than education and road issues, what legislation do you plan to introduce next year if elected or re-elected?

6. What issues are occurring within your district that will prompt you to propose legislation to address them?

Stricherz: 5./6. Answered together: I oppose increases in sales and use taxes without significant cuts in current government spending, as well as oppose increases in property tax. During this time of recession it is irresponsible for our government to increase taxes adding burden to our struggling South Dakota families. We, instead should be focused to finding sensible solutions to the creation of jobs that would allow our South Dakota families to take care of themselves.

During the 2010 session, the state Legislature considered the “South Dakota Health Care Freedom Act” ( SB 137 ), as we learn more and more what this extensive bill contains, I believe it is as important, more than ever, to reintroduce this bill to protect our citizens from the mandated and regulated laws coming out of Washington, DC.

The security of South Dakota families is important, instead of cutting funding to our Police, Sheriff and Highway Patrol Dept.’s it is more responsible to increase funding. Without a strong security system, we are placing our citizen’s in undue harms way.

CAH: Dang—Stricherz is preaching Gordon Howie's nullification again. Can we just accept the health care law and work to improve it? Can Republicans just accept defeat and look for real solutions? I guess not.

And evidently Stricherz wants to exempt law enforcement from the governor's proposed 10% cuts. It's hard to argue with funding public safety... but again, there lies the challenge we face in squaring Republican tough talk on budgets with Republican tough talk on law and order. Government is not all waste: in South Dakota, government is mostly things we like and need. If our candidates spent less time railing about how bad and wasteful government is and instead focused on how necessary police, roads, and education are for our well-being, we might have an easier time convincing taxpayers to support the funding necessary to keep society running.

I still plan to vote for Mitch and Gerry here in District 8. Stricherz won't get my vote, not because she's Patty Stricherz, but because she sounds too much like Russ Olson and every other Republican. The South Dakota GOP says things we like to hear about cracking down on waste, supporting education and police, and not raising taxes. But they never offer a consistent and straightforward explanation of the fiscal realities of turning our fiscal wishes into workable policy.


  1. Ok Cory,
    Here's a straigt forward explaination on the issues to the best of my ability.

    Education, Medicare and Law Enforcement are government mandated and therefore can not be cut to the point that they interfere with the services they provide. There are areas within these programs that deserve to be looked at very closely and perhaps cut, i.e. (my pet peeve) the school lap top program. These 3 Dept.'s alone take 84% of the state budget,which doesn't leave much to go around.
    So where else can cuts be made? How about FTE's or fantom employees that every dept. has. Fantom employees are as a result of budget proposals by depts. for payroll, that actually employ let's say 25 employees but request funding for payroll for 30 employees. This is additional funding that could be used for pay raises for state employees, (who haven't had a pay raise for quite some time). Also, placing a hiring freeze for a year, until the budget comes up for review again, would certainly help.

    I thinks it's fair to explain that education funding did not get cut last budget, there just wasn't an increase. It stayed the same. 50% of our tax dollars is going for education, but we need to do better.

    It has also been suggested to dip into the reserve funds. My question would be, "which one?" We have more reserved funds now then ever in the history of South Dakota. So, how about the Volunteer Internet Sales Tax Fund? or maybe the Aeronautical Fund? And then there's the Rainy Day Fund. These are just a few of many.

    I would suggest that we enhance the strengths that South Dakota already possess, which is agriculture, for the creation of new jobs, to strengthen our infrastructure and economy. Currently, South Dakota doesn't have any rendering plants. Old, wounded or diseased horses, cattle, goats, etc have to be shipped either to Canada or Mexico at the farmer or ranchers expense. Rendering Plants can produce so much from fats to be used for biodesiel, the hides to be used for shoes, purses, etc. the bones for bone meal, which in turn is used for pet foods.Every part of the animal is used for one thing or another, make up, shampoo, etc. This could create up to 500 new jobs.

    I know that Huron's Turkey plant has propsed a rendering plant, but they would use their own birds. Dakota Beef in Aberdeen started out with the proposal of a beef rendering plant, but they were having various financial problems and I haven't heard any more on this. I do know that they are planning to begin operations early 2011 for beef processing.

    I would like to point out that until I can see what the budget is and what there is to work with, it's hard to determine cuts or no cuts. It is fair to say that ALL areas will have to be looked at and Dept.heads are going to have to be honest about what they actually need. I had agreed with Gov Rounds that 10% across the board be cut, but maybe it would be more pratical to suggest that if you can go 3% off the top without problems then go 5%, if you can go 5% then go 10%. Accountability and responsiblity on everyones part.
    $120 million needs to be cut next session, it's going to take team work, determination and honesty to make it work.
    Patricia Stricherz
    Dist.8 State House candidate

  2. Patricia! Always glad to have your contributions.

    Phantom FTEs: Good. Sounds like you're on board with Heidepriem's proposal there. I see no problem with that budget plan.

    Education funding: your statement is technically true. But the Legislature, through state law, had told schools that they would receive X amount in 2010. Senator Russ Olson and your GOP friends then changed that law this session to decrease that amount back to the 2009 amount. Call it a cut; call it a spending freeze; they still gave schools less than they had said they would, and local districts were left with having to make up the difference. In other words, Olson, Rounds, et al. avoided the political heat and made the local supers and boards play the heavies.

    Reserve funds: I agree that it seems silly that Daugaard would brag about our having the highest budget reserves in history. If we're saving for a rainy day, we're there. Spend it.

    The full state budget is available online. Tear it apart, bring it to the candidates' forum!

  3. Cory!

    First, LOL! You continually compare my stances with that of the Democrats. Thank you! That just shows that I am able to shift through the sands of political issues,( despite political affiliation) throw out the doggie poo and grasp what I recognize as real issues that families struggle with on a daily basis.

    Education Funding: I think it's unfortunate that the promised increase was withheld and education was left balancing their budgets with 2009 funds in an unstable economy and a sky rocketing cost of living. Especially when they were counting on additional funding. Making promises is always dangerous, especially when you don't know what tomorrow will bring. Despite that, a promise is a promise and even a smaller portion of what was originally planned on being put into education would have been better than doing nothing at all. An honest commitment to finding the funding wasn't made. No one wants to cut their budgets, but there is always room to do so if you really make an effort to.
    The public is expected to cut spending but our government hasn't learned that process yet.

    Thanks for the link! I intend to study the budget until I know it inside,outside and upside down :)

    I agree that having funds in reserve for disaters at the Katrina level is important, we always think we are safe from disater at that magnitude in South Dakota. But we never know. Or for a finacial crash, but come on! Do we need a fund within a fund within a fund? Reserve an amount equal to our states total yearly budget of 4.1 million, and use the rest to balance the 120 million dollar short fall,fund education, etc. In instances of a financial crash, secondary programs will have to be cancelled altogether. We have to be practical and realistic no matter how hard it is.

    Now then,your comment: "I'm voting for Mitch and Gerry and not Stricherz ( not because it's Patty Stricherz).....what in the heck does that mean exactly?

    Patricia Stricherz
    candidate for Dist 8 State House

  4. There is some merit to the argument that everyone, private and public, should expect to cut back in tough economic times. Nonetheless, there are always some things you can't cut back on, at least not without serious pain. Too many Republicans talk about government as if everything it does is wasteful, when in fact most of the the things the state of South Dakota spends its money on are necessary—schools, roads, cops, etc. We need an honest discussion of what we get for our tax dollar and what we are willing to do without. I look forward to your serious proposals after you've reviewed the budget.

    What is the standard ratio for government budget reserves? 100% of an annual budget? 150%?

    My comment about "not because it's Patty"—that's a complicated way of saying it's nothing personal, that my vote against you and for the other guys is based strictly on the positions presented.


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