Critics chastise Gov. Daugaard’s savings plan

savingsAT ISSUE: When it looked like South Dakota was going to be in a financial bind Gov. Daugaard proposed a daring 10 percent cut in spending by every department in state government. Actually, there were two other possibilities offered that proponents thought would keep the state from using red ink. Daugaard thought his savings plan was prudent and his greatest achievement. His critics thought the Governor’s plan was needless.

NOW, WAIT A gosh-darn minute. Let’s take another look at the Governor’s slashed budget plan. Was it needless? According to the newspaper in that town near Harrisburg when the Legislature tackled the issue of the possibility of not meeting the next fiscal year’s budget requests from the various state agencies there were three possibilities to be examined by the South Dakota Legislature.

There was the plan by former Gov. Mike Rounds. He proposed a five percent spending cut in all departments and then use reserves to fill out the budget. This would have amounted to about $65 million in total cuts and one-time money he proposed would be about $61 million. Then, the balance with actual revenue increase would be about $10 million.

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Also, there was the Democratic plan that called for 10 percent cuts in each state agency except two, education and health (Medicaid) and then use reserves to fill out the state budget. The total cuts would have amounted to about $42 million. The one-time money proposed was $85 million, leaving a $14 million balance with actual revenue increase.

THEN, THERE WAS the Dennis Daugaard plan. It called for a 10 percent spending cut right across the board. No department would be exempt. Not even education and health care. And no reserves would have to be used either. This meant $127 million in total cuts. This also meant there would not be any one-time money proposed. And the big thing here there would be a $71 million balance with actual reserve increase. And that ain’t hay in anyone’s book. And this could be done without having to raise one extra red cent in taxes.

While a book or two could be written about all the intricacies of Gov. Daugaard’s controversial plan, but in a nut shell his proposal would leave the largest balance by far over the other two. Needless to say, if the next fiscal year would have been anything like the last state government would be in a whole world of hurt.

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Of course, it was the typical legislative battle between those who wanted to save and those who wanted to spend. But, as always, hindsight is twenty-twenty.

THEN, JUST THE other day that same newspaper asked, “Was it a good idea for Gov. Daugaard to cut as much from the (state) budget as he did early in his first term?” There were 384 respondents to the question. The result, I’m sure, astounded some folks around the state. Voting “Yes” was 51.8 percent and opting for “No” was 48.2 percent.

While there wasn’t much of a spread between those two percentages, it said a lot.

As you recall teachers immediately took a stand against Daugaard’s proposal and, figuratively, rose up in arms fighting it, especially when the majority of the legislators supported it and thus turning it into law. In fact, it was to the point the teachers and those supporting them successfully referred it to a November vote in the form of Referred Law 16, to overturn House Bill 1234.

THIS BRINGS UP another somewhat related issue. With the economy doing so well now it was reported that nearly a $50 million surplus showed up June 30, the end of the state’s fiscal year.

Right away the call went out that it should be spent on education and health care (Medicaid).

Now wait another gosh-darn minute! Isn’t that the same group that wants to override Daugaard’s proposal (1234) so the money he saved the state could possibly go to education? And isn’t it that same group pushing for the passage of Initiated Measure 15 that would raise the state’s sales tax from four to five cents on the dollar with half of that extra penny going to education and the other half going to Medicaid?

THERE’S NO question education in South Dakota is in need of more revenue. This is necessary to hire the needed teachers. This is needed for scholarships for those who want to enter the teaching profession in South Dakota. It is needed for increased livable teacher salaries. And while not a lot is said about it, some of our schools in the state are in deplorable condition.

Still, education and health care are just two of the many departments in state government. Those agencies are hurting financially as well. We’ll know the day after the Nov. 6 General Election how they may measure up to the needs of education and health care in the state. Was the Governor right or wrong when he cut the budget the way he did? The voters will make that determination….

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Gordon Garnos was long-time editor of the Watertown Public Opinion, retiring after 39 years with that newspaper. Garnos, a lifelong resident of South Dakota except for his military service in the U.S. Air Force, was born and raised in Presho.
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  • hehuqu

    Rounds had already frozen k-12 spending the year before, so 10 percent cuts “across the board” werent really across the board. K-12 funding is still below 2008 levels while social services basically had their budget frozen for a year – because they increase about 10 -12 pecent every year. Check out the budget summaries and you will see this is true. If the state was required to have a balanced budget (as I have heard for years) how did we “overspend” by so much money? how will the constitutional amendment J? Daugaard brought forward prevent this from happening again? I read it (amendment J ?) and it sounds like he is protecting what Rounds did more than protecting the taxpayers. What will prevent the legislature from changing the percentages spelled out in the sales tax increase ( half to education and half to medicare?) Frankly, I cant believe K-12 folks are dumb enough to believe the sales tax measure will save them. Kids dont vote and it wont take long for those greedy healthcare industry folks to realize they can have the whole thing (sales tax increase) for themselves.