$5M for education

Yesterday, I testified before the House Appropriations committee and proposed an amendment to move $5 million to education from economic development. This is such an important issue, I wanted to share excerpts from my remarks with you.

“I have an amendment to remove $5 million dollars from your bill and move it from the Future Fund allocation and move it to education. The fact is that the Future Fund ended the year with a balance of over $21 million dollars. The projection we were given in Appropriations, it would still have $10 million dollars next year and then it would have in $9 million dollars in the following year. The Future Fund is a discretionary fund for the governor, and while we support economic development I think the specifics of the economic development should be in the legislative actions and not in other actions.”

“…$5 million dollars was committed based on an expected revenue source that didn’t materialize because the people voted against that bill….the source for that $5 million dollars was a ten-percent cut in education.”

“…now I’m saying this increase in revenue from the citizens should go to where the citizens need it. That is in education and not where the citizens have rejected a proposal. As a consequence, this amendment would move $5 million dollars from this bill and put it to a per-pupil allocation in education.”

“This doesn’t mean that we have completely denuded the Future Fund. Indeed not, from the numbers given to us in this legislature there would be very adequate money for discretionary economic development from the Governor’s Office in the Future Fund…”

“…I would hope that someone would move, or that you go through 1060, that you take this $5 million dollars that was borrowed or otherwise moved from education and put it back where it belongs.”

News Flash: SD women can think on weekends

Note:  A post from contributor John Tsitrian

If you want a micro glance at the macro problems that the Republican Party is contending with these days, you need gaze no further than Pierre and a House Bill (1237) that’s currently incubating.  The bill amends a current law requiring women seeking an abortion to wait seventy-two hours between visits to her doctor, a “crisis pregnancy center” and undergoing the procedure itself.

HB 1237 would amend the law in the following way:  “No Saturday, Sunday, federal holiday, or state holiday may be included or counted in the calculation of the seventy-two hour minimum time period between the initial physician consultation and assessment and the time of the scheduled abortion procedure.”

The absurdity built into this bill is the implication that women can’t think on weekends and holidays–the reality, of course, is to add another hurdle along the way for women who seek to terminate their unwanted pregnancies.  The simple political math is that when you add the absurdity to the problem, your sum is all about the reason that the GOP has lost a substantial share of the female vote.

Last November, Barack Obama captured an astounding 67% of the unmarried female vote—and those numbers were enough to explain the popular vote margin.  “Unmarried women were the drivers of the president’s victory,” said Page Gardner, the president of  Women’s Voices Women’s Vote Action Fund.  And to what political forces did so many of those younger unmarried women respond?   Utterances during the campaign that seemed to be adopting extreme and retrograde positions birth control and abortion—which the Democrats were quick to exploit, successfully, as a Republican “war on women.”

Unhappily for the GOP, bills like South Dakota’s HB 1237 are easily lifted from news wires and disseminated by national media and used as yet another example of Republican antipathy to women.  I know that many well-educated, young, single professional women are uniformly rolling their eyes at the news of this pending legislation, and it only reinforces a built-in disgust with what they perceive to be condescending and demeaning Republican attitudes toward women.  Given that the GOP’s roots go down to the bedrock principles of self-reliance and freedom from government intrusion into our personal lives, bills like HB 1237 are a rejection of what Republicanism is all about.

This has to change or I fear that the GOP will suffer a long succession of losses in national elections, giving us the specter of quasi-socialists like Barack Obama for many years to come.  I’m John Tsitrian, I’m chairman of Common Sense Republicans PAC, and I’m determined to bring my Party back to its roots as a truly conservative organization that trusts individuals to make their own decisions about their bodies and their private lives.


State insurance exchanges?

Interesting.  Here’s a poll question asked in December of registered voters in South Dakota (exact wording):

“The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama Care, gives states the option of setting up a state-run insurance exchange where people who have trouble finding private health insurance can shop for health insurance.  The law also says that if a state does not set up such exchanges, then the federal government will step in and do it.  Do you think South Dakota should go ahead and set up an insurance exchange, or do you think we should let the federal government do it?”

71% said the state should do it, while 23% said they wanted the feds to do it for us.

Support for having the state set up the insurance exchange (which so far Governor Daugaard has opposed), runs 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 in favor across all age groups and income groups.  Republicans favor state exchanges 77-17, which is 20 points better than Democrats, one in four of whom would rather have the feds do it.

Tea Party supporters favor state-run exchanges over the feds doing it, 68-24.

The hidden tax most people pay

There’s a misconception that needs correction.  The notion seems to be that if we deny Medicaid coverage to the working poor, it will somehow save money.

Well, true, it might save taxes — but you and I, my fellow South Dakotans — are going to pay one way or another.  Every person who is right now paying for health insurance, or who pays hospital or doctor bills, is paying for health care that is received by fellow South Dakotans who do NOT have health insurance.

You are paying those costs via higher insurance rates and higher hospital and medical fees, because when those folks finally show up in the Emergency Room, they cannot be turned away.  A problem that might have cost $100 in a doctor’s office visit costs many times more when  it turns into an emergency room visit.

There are 48,000 South Dakotans in this category and the hidden tax (paid via higher insurance rates and provider fees) is $9 million per year FROM HOSPITALS ALONE.  Add in clinics, labs, nursing homes, mental health centers, etc. and the hidden tax gets even larger.

SD Leg could be doing better

My attention was recently called to a poll done by the Dakota Poll (www.dakotapoll.com) that looked at the public’s feelings about the South Dakota legislature.

It’s easily summarized: we could be doing better, especially on funding K-12 education, where the Legislature gets a 68% negative rating and only a 31% positive rating.   South Dakota voters also gave the Legislature a failing grade on helping SD get more high wage jobs, with 70% rating the peeps in Pierre negatively compared to a 28% positive rating.

The Legislature also gets a failing grade for making sure our education system is creating workers who are qualified to compete for high wage jobs, 60% negative to 39% positive.

Just for the record, no, I am not one of the sponsors of the Dakota Poll, though I am friends with some of those folks.   They do full disclosure on their website and also publish every question word for word.  They also publish every number the questions produce, including hundreds of pages of cross tabular data, so you can judge for yourself how much stock you want to put into the data.

So often the Legislature gets sucked into emotional hot button issues or stuff that is essentially trivia.  These poll numbers are reporting on the big stuff, folks!  We’ve got to do better on these key issues if we want to make a dramatic improvement in South Dakota’s future prospects.  Your thoughts?

Nonpartisan bill coming up!

Perhaps you have followed in the press my efforts to make certain that the integrity of our election process is absolutely, positively, 100% above reproach.

I have introduced two bills on this subject.  One requires that the Secretary of State be elected on a nonpartisan basis, and the other prohibits anyone in that office from taking part in partisan political activity.

A hearing on these bills has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday in the Senate State Affairs Committee on 4th floor of the Capitol.  Please if at all possible be there to show your support, and pass the word to others.  Many thanks!