We've moved!

Social Icons

twitterfacebooklinkedinrss feed

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Olson and Bjorklund Quislings for TransCanada

Fargen, Lange, Schmidtke, Stricherz Recognize Oil Tax Breaks Wrong

KJAM asked our District 8 House and Senate candidates what they think of the millions of dollars South Dakota gave away to TransCanada this year as an incentive for building the Keystone pipeline (second question on each interview, minute or two in). The answers are instructive about who's looking out for South Dakota and who's making excuses for Big Oil.

Republican Senator Russell Olson offers no surprises with his passionate advocacy for Big Oil, saying the tax refund was "absolutely" good. He hews closely to the company line (TransCanada's and his boss's at Heartland Consumer Power District), telling us the Keystone I pipeline was an $800-million stimulus for South Dakota.* TransCanada is now the biggest property tax payer in the state, says Olson, pumping more money into school and county budgets than any other industry could. Every barrel of oil from TransCanada, says Olson, is one less barrel from petrodictators like Hugo Chavez. And TransCanada got $30 million less in refunds from Pierre than they originally projected. Olson says TransCanada has brought our state a "phenomenal amount of money," and the "economic benefit certainly outweighs the one-time $10 million rift that everybody is so worked up about."

That's a strong answer. Too bad it misses the point. Olson's Independent Democratic challenger Clark Schmidtke points out that we didn't need to hand out that $10 million in the first place. Both Schmidtke and incumbent Democratic House candidate Rep. Mitch Fargen note that neither North Dakota nor Nebraska offered such cushy tax breaks to TransCanada. If Russ's analysis of local benefits from the pipelines is correct (and I question even that), North Dakota and Nebraska got similar benefits for free. We could have gotten the same benefits and still kept that $10 million for education or health care or other local priorities, just as North Dakota and Nebraska did. Oops.

Schmidtke does answer the broader question about state incentives in general for economic development by saying he can support applying and even expanding these tax refunds to ethanol companies, since ethanol does more direct good for South Dakota farmers and workers. Fargen adds that the refund program TransCanada exploited was developed to support South Dakota's ethanol, soy diesel, and wind energy companies. He and Schmidtke agree that TransCanada's refund was a giveaway that produced few jobs for South Dakotans.

Posed the same question, incumbent Democratic candidate for House Rep. Gerry Lange doesn't hesitate to brand the TransCanada giveaway a bad idea. Lange recognizes the value of this tax incentive for the local energy projects for which it was originally intended, like the soy diesel plant. But that contractors' excise tax that we refunded to TransCanada is the same tax that hits school districts and counties when they build public improvements. Why, asks Lange, hit South Dakota taxpayers with that expense for building schools and roads and bridges, then turn around and give back millions to a foreign company for building a pipeline (which I will note gets no public use)?

Republican House candidate Patricia Stricherz (who, yes, is currently a paying advertiser here on the Madville Times) is just as forceful and unhesitant as Lange in saying the TransCanada tax refunds were "Absolutely not" a good idea. She notes that TransCanada has already had leaks in South Dakota and says companies that want to come here should have to prove themselves worthy.

So where does that leave Independent/9-12 candidate for House Jason Bjorklund? Let's read the transcript of his response to the question:

Admittedly I'm not entirely up on TransCanada. I haven't been in the Legislature obvioulsy, so I'm not privy to all the information they've had, but as far I understand this is a done deal and at this point there's nothing we can do about it. Do I think this is best way to bring buinsesses and jobs to South Dakota? No, not necessarily. We need to look at ways to encourage businesses to come here without spending the... limited resources that we have. Now this TransCanada thing it appears to be a done deal, they've got the money, there's nothing we can do at this point but sit back and look at the numbers how many jobs did it create in the state, was this a good move for us to do, and keep that in mind as we make future decisions [Jason Bjorklund, interview with Lauri Struve, KJAM Radio, 2010.10.13].

Here Bjorklund has a golden opporunity to put his 9-12 Project principles into action. He could rail against wasteful government spending and crony capitalism. He could show that he can translate the slogans he gets from national talk radio into real solutions that put South Dakotans first. Instead, he hems and haws and provides more cover for the Republican regime in Pierre than the declared Republican on the House ballot offers. Not necessarily... it's over and done... there's nothing we can do about it....

Bull-roar. A legislator not beholden to the GOP or Big Oil could do lots about it. He could declare it bad policy and a waste of money, as Schmidtke and Fargen do. He could point to other priorities where the money would be better spent, as Lange does. He could highlight the dangers posed by the pipeline, as Stricherz does. He could look ahead and vow to repeal the refund for the Keystone XL pipeline and recoup the money with a pennies-per-barrel pipeline tax (a good idea that Senator Russ Olson killed this year).

Schmidtke, Fargen, Lange, and even Stricherz are making clear that, on this issue, they recognize that we should put South Dakotans ahead of foreign oil corporations. Olson is proving once again that he's in the pocket of Big Oil. Bjorklund is hinting that he's more interested in covering for the mistakes and corporate giveaways of the Republican machine in Pierre than in challenging the powers that be and sticking up for average South Dakotans.
Olson-Bjorklund: The TransCanada Ticket

*So if Kristi Noem can look at South Dakota's current economic situation and say the federal stimulus failed, can we say Olson's imputed "TransCanada stimulus" also failed?


  1. "Oily-lujah!" Too funny Cory. like something you would find on Stephen Colbert's "The Word" segment.:-)

  2. Thanks, Barry! Someday I'll get a Mac so I can do more graphics faster. :-)

  3. Quizlings? Isn't that code for "Nazi sympathizers?" LOL

    That is what was said about the Minnesota GOP chairman who used the word.

    Actually, I think it ok for you to use the word and don't think it should be inferred as being a pro-Nazi accusation.

    Just a comment on the hyper-sensitivity with regard the use of so many analogies that end up creating faux controversies.

  4. Troy, I appreciate both your comment and your lack of hypersensitivity. :-)

    For what it's worth, I really didn't have any Nazi comparson or conscious subtextual intent when I wrote that headline. "Someone who collaborates with an enemy occupying force" is all the definition I need to make my point. Occupying force... I know some landowners who will appreciate that comparison.

  5. "Admittedly I'm not entirely up on TransCanada. I haven't been in the Legislature obvioulsy, so I'm not privy to all the information they've had..." Come On Jason! That's a cop-out answer!
    I've not been in the legislature either, but as a candidate for state house, with something this important, I have made it a priority to be "privy" to what is going on across our state. Just last month a family in Miner Co.
    ( part of District 8, Jason) reported how the pipeline was on a portion of their land and had developed leaks. TransCanada neglected to inform them what had occured, when they inquired with TransCanda after learning of the leaks, they were told the leaks were small and not a threat so didn't think it was important enough to report. Personally, I don't care if it's a teaspoon! It's important. It's important to lives, it's important to environment. If they are going to be irresponsible with a small leak, how responsible will they be if a larger leak should occur? We can do better than this South Dakota! We do not need to buy a company to come to our state, i.e. Lowes in Brookings County or TransCanda. Our state has a lot to offer businesses with out trying to lure them in by dangling the dollars in front of their noses!
    Since we're discussing TransCanda, lets continue with Hyperion. A huge thorn in my side! I don't care what they have to offer as far as economic development goes, jobs, or additional taxable income for our state. We DO NOT need this. There are other options to look into to create jobs,etc. I am speaking from my own experience of living in a city that has a oil refinery, and I just don't think this is what's best for South Dakota.It just gives me a sinking feeling thinking about it. I am not trying to prevent jobs from coming to our state, I realize the importance of job creation. I just don't want jobs that can be dangerous to our citizens. I'm looking out for the best interest of our citizens. As I stated in my KJAM interview, I'd like to take a closer look at a rendering plant. Besides benefiting our farmers and ranchers, the possibilities are numerous. We are looking at 500 jobs just for the rendering plant alone. Then when we start looking into using the product that comes from there we have bone meal that is used in pet foods, cosmetics, personal hygiene items, etc. The fats can be used for bio-diesel. There's concern about Iowa's casino/Resort being built, and what that means for South Dakota. Instead of counter-acting by building a casino/resort in South Dakota I'd like to look into bringing a family based resort to our state like Great Wolf Lodge. There are safer more practical options that we can consider.
    Patricia Stricherz


Comments are closed, as this portion of the Madville Times is in archive mode. You can join the discussion of current issues at MadvilleTimes.com.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.