Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials
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Argus Leader, Sioux Falls. Oct. 31, 2012
Penny tax hike isn't a solution
South Dakotans will soon decide whether they want to pay an extra penny in state sales taxes for schools and Medicaid reimbursements.
There are several reasons why that plan, known as Initiated Measure 15 on the ballot, is a flawed approach to helping pay for two important and large pieces of our state budget.
While schools and Medicaid both deserve adequate money to take care of children and our state's most needy citizens, raising money through additional sales taxes takes other money out of the pockets of those very people, who already might have a tight budget when it comes to buying groceries and other necessities.
The proposed change in law would raise the state sales tax from 4 cents to 5 cents on the dollar for most purchases, including food and clothing. Projections show the additional tax would be worth about $182 million a year, which would be split between schools and health care for low-income people. It would be in addition to money budgeted by lawmakers.
The proposed change comes on the heels of cuts to both education and health care in 2011. Gov. Dennis Daugaard at that time asked lawmakers to cut the budget by 10 percent after the national recession. In the end, lawmakers were able to make up for some of the cuts and restore some money to schools and Medicaid.
While nobody denies that we have an education funding problem and a Medicaid funding problem in South Dakota, this is not the solution.
We don't like this added tax because it is regressive, meaning it is a bigger burden for poorer families. We also don't like that lawmakers wouldn't be able to cut budgets for schools and Medicaid under this proposal. That is just bad management.
There also is no guarantee that when schools get this extra money from the added penny sales tax, that they will spend it on teacher salaries and needed programs. There is nothing that prevents schools from putting the cash into reserves.
We think the best solution for schools is a tool they already can use - the opt-out. School boards have the authority to ask local taxpayers to pay more for their local programs by opting out of the state property tax freeze. That leaves the decision where it should be, at the local level.
As for the tax bumping up money for health care, we don't see how this will save nursing homes, which are the most vulnerable when it comes to getting reimbursed for Medicaid patients. With or without an added tax, Medicaid patients can't be denied health care. The question is how much providers will receive in reimbursements.
Because the structure of IM15 is flawed, we support a "no" vote at the polls. Then lawmakers and others can get to work to properly pay for education and Medicaid in South Dakota.
The Daily Republic, Mitchell. Nov. 1, 2012
Noem not perfect, but has done well
The forthcoming election to determine South Dakota's member of the U.S. House of Representatives seems to hinge on a few basic issues:
Has the incumbent, Republican Kristi Noem, been working on behalf of South Dakota? Or has she been slacking at our expense, as her challenger, Democrat Matt Varilek, claims?
Has Noem been a voice for South Dakota's agriculture community? Or has she failed to speak up about key farm issues and the farm bill itself during her two years in Washington, as Varilek contends?
And does Varilek too closely mirror the political ideals and policies of President Barack Obama, as Noem contends?
This has become a nasty campaign, and honestly, we care very little about claims that Noem seemingly toys with her cellphone during committee meetings or that Varilek has hosted parties that revolve around corndogs and alcohol.
We do not feel that Noem has made any significant mistakes during her first two years in Congress, and therefore we today give her our support.
She has the background we are seeking in our elected leaders - she is a lifelong rancher, came up through the ranks of the South Dakota Legislature and quickly rose to a leadership position in the U.S. House.
We do feel her attendance at committee meetings must improve, although we do not have any proof that she is truly the slacker that Varilek wants us to believe. Noem says she always attends meetings that involve South Dakota issues, and we have no reason to not believe her.
We appreciate her voting record, which is 99 percent in committee and 98 percent on the House floor. We also appreciate that, according to her records, she has attended some 800 meetings with constituents during her time in the U.S. House.
Varilek holds Noem - and other House members - responsible for Congress' farm bill failure of 2012. We do not feel Noem has been a detriment to any farm bill discussions, nor do we feel sufficient proof has been submitted to suggest she has.
Despite the strong differences they show in their campaign advertisements and during debates, Varilek and Noem actually have many similar ideas and visions.
They both vow to stand up for the ag community. They both believe in preserving the United States Postal Service. They both say they are advocates of ethanol. They both agree the Keystone XL pipeline should be built.
This campaign isn't about skipping committee meetings or corndog-and-beer parties. It's about deciding who truly deserves to represent South Dakota in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Noem could be better, but certainly hasn't done anything to be tossed aside after just a single term.
Noem possesses the dual experience of a business owner and, now, national lawmaker. Varilek has neither. We also feel many of his policies mirror those of the president. We're not sure that's what the country needs right now.
We give our support to Noem, but urge the congresswoman to tend to her post and to continue fighting for South Dakota.
Watertown Public Opinion. Oct. 30, 2012
Postal Service is vital
The U.S. Postal Service has been hemorrhaging money for years and has been looking for ways to stop the bleeding. It's raised the prices of stamps, left positions unfilled, consolidated processing centers and taken a host of other steps all designed to at least reduce its losses and, hopefully, eventually stop the drain of money.
Capitalism, which this country is built on, and modern innovation have slowed the USPS's money stream. Private parcel carriers have cut deeply in the Postal Service's shipping business and social networking sites that provide email, text messaging, tweets and other forms of personal communication have replaced letter writing which has become a lost art for many of us. Think back to the last time you received a handwritten personal letter from someone. Can you remember who it was from, let alone when you received it?
That's the reality of modern times and the reality the Postal Service is trying to survive. But it's not just the Postal Service that is trying to adjust and survive. Small towns across the country, including many in South Dakota, are looking at the potential loss of mail service as the USPS tries to cut its losses by closing postal operations in small communities. In addition, the Postal Service has talked about going from a six-day per week delivery schedule to five and, who knows, maybe fewer down the road.
We all have to remember that only the USPS has the universal mandate and a monopoly on the box outside your home or at the end of your drive. The private competitive carriers don't - they go only where they can make money. Congress and our nation need to remember the universal delivery mandate is both a blessing and curse for the USPS.
Certainly these are tough times for a variety of reasons. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are dependent on the USPS - besides the people who work there are those involved in the direct mail, catalogue, bulk mail and other forms of shipping. If the Postal Service reduces its operations sites, number of employees and/or delivery schedule, those jobs will be affected.
In many rural areas the distance between post office sites can be substantial. Closing more sites will increase the expense it takes to get from one site to another. Daily trips to the local post office would likely become a thing of the past in many communities.
Early next month, the first 12 northeast South Dakota communities whose post offices could be affected by a proposal to reduce window service hours, including Florence in Codington County, have set public meetings to discuss the situation. Towns in Clark, Day, Marshall, Roberts and Spink counties also will have meetings before Nov. 15.
If your community has one of those meetings scheduled, please attend. What you have to say and how the decisions reached by the USPS impact your life could be important to service in your area.
If you want to keep what you have let the people making the decisions know how important your local post office is.