Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is Mr. Burns in charge in Pierre?

You may remember Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.  He is the old curmudgeon that runs the nuclear power plant in town.  He has massive amounts of money and enjoys lording it over the little people in the town and that work for him.  Despite all the money he continues to make, he ignores that basics of keeping the plant functioning safely. 

This morning I read an article that pointed out that South Dakota has developed a record level "rainy-day" fund of $159 million dollars thanks to adding another 24.2 million at the end of June 2013.  It may seem wonderful to have all this coin sitting in the bank, but isn't the government supposed to use that money to provide for the tax payers who gave it in the first place?  Aren't there services in South Dakota that have been gutted because, according to Daugaard, apocalypse was going to happen.  Why can't they get things figured out?  Is it because Daugaard enjoys sitting in his office swimming in the extra millions he keeps lying around?  

Mr. Burns hates the riffraff of the town and enjoys releasing the hounds to hear the scream of agony of all the little people.  Remember that massive cut promised by Daugaard when he ran for governor? (Me neither)  That is what he gave South Dakota instead of using some of the reserves that were sitting in the bank.  The impact has been lasting for several districts.  Of course this is exactly what he promised when he became governor.  I encourage you to read from his stance on education (please try not to laugh or cry too loud):

I am committed to the principle of “first dollar and last dollar” for funding our schools. The idea is not complicated. Schools are the only area of government that, by statute, receive an automatic funding increase each year. Before the budget discussion even begins, our schools get the “first dollars” through this automatic increase. I recognize that in a difficult budget year, when there is no new money, we have needed to forego even this automatic increase. But as we seek to balance our budget without raising taxes, our highest priority should be to allocate these annual increases to our schools.
I also believe schools should get the “last dollar” each year. This means that, when times are good, and when the state’s other needs are met, any leftover funds should be allocated to improving our schools. Near-term budget challenges may frustrate this intention in the immediate future, but I am confident that we will emerge from this recession. When we do, our schools will be the first beneficiaries.  (There is no date listed on the document, so I can only assume that it is from 2010.)

First and last, right?  What happened?  Okay, so 2010 and 2011 were recovery years from the recession.  How about 2012 when we knew that it never got as bad as predicted in SD?  We got a 3 percent increase (sort of).  As pointed out the actual increase was only .8 percent in the ongoing funding.  Instead, the Governor never really wanted to talk about education funding, but Bernie Hunhoff clarified the real vision of Daugaard has for education:

“We never really got to the heart of the matter, which is how do we fund K-12 education in South Dakota?” said Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, D-Yankton and the house minority leader. “We’ve dug a huge hole for our schools ... I would have thought it would be the major issue of the budget address, and it never came up.”
Does that sound like first dollar and last dollar to you?  The more money he can rake into the rainy day fund allows him to fund programs for his business buddies.  Instead of using money to help educate and train South Dakota's future, he gives money to outside agencies hoping to bring people into South Dakota.  (It turns out that is not working.)  Remember that we can't expand healthcare to 44,000 to uninsured working poor in South Dakota because we can't afford it. (even though it would increase work productivity and jobs)  We can afford to bring Big Dairy into the state, but we can't afford helping colleges like SDSU and the students that go there keep costs down.  ("Kids graduate from college in South Dakota and go into a debt load-- 75 percent, go into job market paying lowest wages in the nation," Susan Randall said.-- South Dakota Voices for Children)

My prediction is that since this is running up to an election year, you will hear grand gestures for helping education.  Then again, if the Democrats can't find a viable opponent for Daugaard, he might once again announce "release the hounds!" and allow the legislature to leave all the little people trapped under a dome hopping the Governor doesn't block out the sun.

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