BIO – Native of Tea, SD, the town of Tea is basically built on my ancestors’ homestead. I lived in central Sioux Falls through grade school. Moved to rural Harrisburg in 8th grade and graduated from Lennox High School. I attended USD and graduated from Augustana College. Farmed and owned a masonry business until 1982, then managed a Sioux Falls excavation and utilities contracting firm until 1988. Moved to Los Angeles for graduate education and worked in Organizational Psychology and Marketing consulting until 2003. Returned to SD and have worked in a variety of positions in construction, retail, and government since then. Currently chairman of the Planning Commission for the city of Lennox, SD.
If you had to choose between public education funding or tax breaks and refunds to corporations interested in doing business in South Dakota, which would you cut first?
Education is the basis for the success of business in South Dakota – or “anywhere”. It should be the last thing cut. By contrast, I have made efforts to recruit businesses to SD from out of state and I can tell you from those experiences, their primary concerns are NOT tax breaks, or even low costs of doing business in the state. They are more concerned with access to a qualified work force, transportation facilities, and social/cultural factors. In addition, my experiences in retail have taught me that price competition (and that’s what using monetary incentives to attract out-of state businesses to SD amount to) is like shooting yourself in BOTH feet. First – it costs every bit as much to operate the state of SD as it does to operate our neighboring states – we have to pay the same for what we purchase. To sell it for less does nothing to enable our ability to expand on what we can offer. Second, it is a strategy that will attract more interest from customers (potential new businesses) who are struggling and do not have the capacity or perhaps the market or skills to grow themselves without outside aid.
Do you support a one penny sales tax increase to fund education and Medicaid? If so, why or why not?
After a great deal of consideration of all of the elements involved in IM 15, I came to the decision to support it. My reasoning ultimately hinged on several factors. The primary one is that this measure includes language that prohibits the legislature from either the replacement of state funding for education at funding formula rates lower to 2012 levels in the general fund, or from using the ½ penny to otherwise supplant the general fund, and it prohibits the legislature from controlling the uses of the ½ penny. So, it contains necessary controls on the uses of funds. Second, there is inadequate coverage for Medicaid patients in SD – especially in rural areas. Increasing reimbursement rates to providers in rural areas will enable them to increase Medicaid funded services in rural areas. There will detractors bemoaning the role of the big health care providers, but the alternative is to deny access to local health care coverage to our rural citizens. South Dakota government’s state constitutional obligation is to provide for the general welfare of all citizens. Finally, and most importantly, this is an initiated measure. It is a bottom-up, by and from-the-people matter.
What is the number one (1) issue the state legislature should focus on in the 2013 legislative session?
Restoring education funding – especially higher education funding is the highest priority for state government. Over the past 10 years the state has halved it s support for higher education. I have talked with several people in my walk-and-knock for whom the increased costs of South Dakota college attendees have had a huge impact. When college students start paying twice of their education costs that typically means they go twice to three times as far into debt to get their education. In turn, that means they are twice to three times as likely to have to leave the state to find employment that pays well enough to pay back those debts. This is not a strategy that will lead to an increasingly well-educated and well-prepared work force, with which to attract new employers, OR to enable growth from within. For a party that is supposedly the “business savvy” experts; Republicans in this state certainly don’t reflect that when they attack higher education funding. Going back to a business analogy, it’s like hiring people, and training them (any HR folks out there will understand the costs associated) but them not paying them enough once trained to retain them as employees. It is the equivalent of doing all the hard work of recruitment and training one’s competitor’s employees for them.
Since the state has a surplus this year of $50 million, do you think they should start funding public education better, reduce taxes or allocate those funds to something else?
Better fund education – see all answers above.
Do you support citizen driven initiative like the current snowgates petition that is circulating?
Citizen initiatives are like any other law. One needs to be cautious and diligent in examining all of the possible ramifications of the law. Some states (California comes to mind) have had initiated constitutional changes that have severely hampered their ability to function as a state. I am in favor of the general concept – but the details of each and every initiated measure must be fully understood.
Bonus Question: If you were King or Queen for a day in Pierre, what would you change about the legislative session (ex: rules, procedures and time frames)?
I would make the sessions longer. The final three-day rush of amendments is a great hindrance on the transparency and deliberate thoughtfulness which should be associated with the process. I would consider some sort of rules about the adaptation of legislation from sources outside of our own state citizenry. The state constitution does declare South Dakota to be an independent government, and I do not see how adapting legislation “provided” for us by out-of-state groups meets that requirement.