Press & Dakotan Interview published October 22, 2018
This is part of a series of profiles of the candidates for District 18 legislative seats and the Yankton County Commission. Election Day is Nov. 6.
The following is the article published by P&D. If you wish to view the full article, click HERE.
Why Are You Running?
Having worked in the political and implementation side of the government for many years, I am anxious to join the policy-making arena and help shape the future of South Dakota. I believe strongly that economic development and new jobs are the keys to keeping our young people in the state while inviting former residents to return and new residents to come. Economic development depends on quality education including a strong post-secondary education including work force development programs through our technical schools. It also depends on a viable transportation system which mean upgrading our roads and bridges as well as improvements to our rail system to move goods more efficiently and relieve truck traffic on our roads. Finally, aiding value-added agriculture so we export more finished products rather than raw materials and commodities to be processed in other states. I want to be part of making these initiatives a success.
What should the legislative budgeting priorities be in the coming year?
Legislative budget priorities in the 2019 Session should address education, healthcare and transportation. Education is the number one priority each year because it is the largest item in the state budget including not only state aid to K-12 education, but also the University system and the technical schools. When looking at that budget we should be looking at expanding services to address the needs of working people who wish to improve their opportunities through further education. A distance learning program whereby they could learn from home and receive university credit without having to be in a classroom would be an avenue toward accomplishing that goal. Our healthcare systems must be a priority as we pursue creative means of providing quality healthcare to all. Finally, our transportation infrastructure needs attention and counties need assistance to meet their responsibility for roads and bridges.
Teacher salaries are still lower than their regional counterparts. What more could be done to bring teacher salaries in line with surrounding states?
In 2016, the state sales tax was increased by .5 percent to 4.5 percent with the increase directed to increasing teacher pay. Although only 18 months into this increase, it does not appear that it has been enough to make our teacher salaries competitive with neighboring states. I doubt if the public in light of the current farm economy is ready for another tax increase and thus we need to adjust within the current budget. When video lottery came to the state, proceeds were to go to education but eventually that income was absorbed into the general fund. One possible answer to increasing teacher pay would be to direct a percentage portion of the video lottery proceeds not only to the schools but specifically to teacher pay. It may also be possible to use some of the increased revenue from remote seller sales tax toward teacher pay increases.
How do you feel the recent decision on internet sales tax will impact the state?
It is obvious that the remote seller sales tax revenue will be a benefit to the state. The question is how much. Estimates vary from $50 million to $75 million, but even those are just educated guesses. Because the tax will be implemented on Nov. 1, we won’t know for a few months what realistic revenue projections are. We also need to deal with the so-called Partridge Amendment which directs that the state sales tax be reduced by .1 percent when revenues from the remote seller sales tax reaches $20 million. This will reduce the amount available for other spending. And you can be assured that every agency from educations to highways to healthcare will be seeking their share of the remote seller tax. So yes, it will help our state but we don’t know how much and no, it won’t solve all our financial problems.
How will you fund tech schools while making sure four-year institutions still operate at a high quality?
I do not see that the four-year institutions will need to suffer a decline in quality simply because the state is funding technical schools. Those schools are currently paid for out of a separate line item in the Education budget. In the FY2019 appropriations both the four-year schools and post-secondary technical schools received increases over FY2018. Thus, I don’t see that one is being diminished to support the other and I do not foresee that happening. Technical schools might seek to expand their services partnering with industries that need the students they graduate. A public-private partnership such as this would assure industries the workforce trained to their needs and assure employment to the graduates. Industries could do this through scholarships or even by sponsoring technology specific classes.
I have the experience and qualifications to be your South Dakota State Senator from District 18, and ask for your vote now through November 6. I believe a State Senator is charged with bringing the concerns of constituents to Pierre. Therefore, I will be open to any invitation or communication from the people of Yankton County and I will be attending your organization and government meetings to gather information to fulfill that charge. I believe a transparent government is vital and will strive to make government information more open and more easily accessible to all the citizens of the county and state. South Dakota is a great place to grow up and to live in, and that is the reason I returned after too many years away. I want to be part of making it an even better place.