Recent headlines here in Madison and in Minnesota highlight our two states’ sharply contrasting value systems. Here in South Dakota, our leaders are telling us we’ll have to cut ecucation funding to balance the budget! There in Minnesota, the finally-elected new governor, a multi-millionaire heir of the Dayton fortune, is acting like a statesman with “noblesse oblige!”
Rather than slashing education and vital services, he’s calling on his own class of affluent “winners” to come up with more income tax to patch their budget holes. How could sister states be so different? Could be a matter of their preferring a number one quality of life where it’s worth the trade-offs: more taxes for better wages, better infrastructure, and no taxes on food, clothing, auctions, and building contracts.
National government publications are rich with “best practices” from other states. As legislators, we brought home numerous “success stories” from meetings all over the country. One of the best that could save us millions is as close as North Dakota! They’ve been doing “electronic monitoring” and intensive probation for quite a few years. Results? 1000 fewer in prison than here, and a ten percent recividism compared with some fifty percent in most states.
Most of our leaders in Pierre know this, so it’s puzzling as to why we don’t adopt this successful approach. Do South Dakotans really believe that converting colleges to prisons has been a better strategy? Do tax-fearing voters really prefer to balance the budget on the backs of our kids?
—Gerald Lange, December 2010
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