A recent Daily Republic editorial proclaimed “good news” that our state finished the fiscal year with a $47 million surplus. Yes, $47 million is good, but there’s no news there.
We’ve balanced our budgets in South Dakota since statehood. That’s 123 straight years. And in recent years we haven’t even come close to being in the red. State government is awash in cash. We now have $134 million in official reserves, plus another $725 million in trust funds and as of right now it looks like we could see millions more in surplus for the current fiscal year.
Remember, news happens when a man bites a dog. News is when we don’t balance the budget. Our state constitution requires it.
The real news is this latest confirmation that we unnecessarily slashed school spending by $52 million, and when the federal government sent $26 million the Pierre bureaucracy kept that in their own coffers. Then we slashed spending for children’s health programs, nursing homes and hospitals.
Frugality is a virtue. But we’ve taken it to the extreme in South Dakota. At some point it becomes a vice — like a well-to-do father who won’t buy shoes for his kids.
Despite a guise of frugality, the current administration has started a litany of new programs — many of them for big corporations. One example is the Manpower program that will spend $5 million to help a few companies recruit workers from out-of-state. That’s what often happens with exorbitant surpluses: they are reclassified as one-time monies and then spent in areas that are low priority, if necessary at all. Thus, frugality turns into waste.
Here is a mathamatical description of the "guise of frugality":
If you look at Daugaard's proposed budget as of January 2011 his $1,136,463,152 General Fund budget is only $12,365,660 less than the revised 2011 budget. That is $12 million, not $127 million.
But what is really interesting is page 4 of Daugaard's complete 2012 budget analysis which shows the projected revenue for 2012, as of January 2011, to be $1,138,768,298, leaving a pojected surplus of $2 million. The actual 2012 revenue was $1,282,385,593, or an increase of $144 million. If only $48 million went to reserves, then the other $96 million must have been spent, along with the $2 million projected amount! Now, were is that being reported? So a second Daugaard Deception regarding FY2012 is the surplus...it was $146 million (the $144 million extra revenue plus the $2 million projected surplus), not $48 million.
Bernie goes on to complain about the "age-old line" that is used to further the "guise of frugality" and provides details that would point to corruption instead of his terms, "frugality turns into waste":
The age-old line from the Pierre bureaucracy is that we dare not risk an adequate investment in education because disaster could be lurking — a flood, a forest fire, beetles, drought or recession. But our penny-pinching has caused a disaster for schools, for property taxpayers in South Dakota and for many community health care facilities.
Your editorial board accused me of playing politics with the “good” budget news this week. I suppose anything can be construed as politics — giving your wife flowers on her birthday, for example. But the only reason many of us are even involved in politics is because we want to improve the lives of South Dakotans.
Is your life better because the state salted away tens of millions of your tax dollars rather than making smart investments in health care and education and keeping property taxes down?
Amazing that it is a Democrat who brings concern to higher property taxes, while the SDGOP leadership's plan is to raise property taxes to raise the local effort portion of the state aid formula so that the state can spend money in other areas. What Bernie does not undestand is that some of the redirected funds is going into education, but not to schools. Instead they are using funds to build the bureaucratic controls within the Department of Education necessary for implementation of a global economy. Details on the latest revelations coming in my next post.