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Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

August 9, 2018

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Aug. 9

No need to rush online sales tax bill

Why did the governor feel the need to call a special session to — according to his chief of staff — “expedite implementation” of online sales tax collections?

Does an emergency exist that merits a special session on Sept. 12? Why can’t state lawmakers consider legislation in January, which is fewer than five months away? Is there a fiscal time bomb ticking that has been withheld from the public and media?

That seems unlikely, however, given the recent report from Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who because of term limits can’t seek re-election in November.

In mid-July, he hailed the news that the state ended fiscal year 2018 with a $16.9 million surplus. The additional money was quickly transferred to the state’s budget reserves, which now total $176.4 million.

Without a clear need for an immediate infusion of new revenue, it seems a special session is a waste of taxpayer money. But then it’s just the taxpayers’ money, and state government is apparently eager to get its hands on more of it as soon as possible for reasons not disclosed in Tuesday’s announcement of a special session.

All that can be accomplished in a one-day session is to put a rubber stamp on what the governor wants. Committee hearings likely won’t be held and the public certainly won’t be heard. The governor has already stated he wants to start collecting the additional revenue from state residents beginning Oct. 1.

The governor also did not say what the state wants to do with its windfall after prevailing before the U.S. Supreme Court in South Dakota v. Wayfair.

Will it be used to reduce property taxes as the governor of Nebraska has said he wants to do in his state? How about more money for education, health care, roads or workforce development?

The only plan the state has to address the infusion of revenue was approved in 2016 as lawmakers debated increasing the sales tax by a half-cent to boost teacher pay. The amendment by Jeff Partridge of Rapid City requires that the state sales tax, now at 4.5 percent, be reduced by a tenth of a percentage point for every $20 million collected by the online sales tax.

Even that plan, however, did not benefit from much discussion as the debate primarily revolved around whether the lowest-paid teachers in the nation deserved a pay raise or not.

While the legislation that Daugaard proposes next month will likely be approved by the Republican majority in the Legislature, it shouldn’t mean the discussion is over. Instead, it should be considered the beginning as online sales tax revenue will rise in the future and everyone has a stake in that.

The use of the new revenue should be a campaign issue for the candidates for governor as well as all contested races in the Legislature. It needs to be debated by lawmakers in the next legislative session. The people — the taxpayers — need to be heard as well before this new revenue is earmarked or claimed by special interests. The discussion needs to be held in the context of what is best for all residents of South Dakota.

The state’s victory in the Supreme Court amounts to a windfall for the state, but it is yet to be seen if that will be the case for taxpayers. The next governor needs to recognize that and open the doors to a robust and open discussion about the best future use of millions of dollars of sales tax revenue that will flow for years to come.

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American News, Aberdeen, Aug. 8

Good news, on water and on the grill

The catch-of-the-day is good news, courtesy of South Dakotans reeling in success and inspiration:

— A 26-year-old fisherman from Groton reeled in one of the biggest catches of the summer. Zack Kirsch caught enough big walleyes to earn the top amateur award at the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour event on Devils Lake in North Dakota. Fish on.

— Speaking of fishing, what started as an English project is now Bruns Tackle. That is an area business that specializes in walleye spinners and miscellaneous lead fishing weights.

Walker Bruns, 18, a graduate of Ellendale (N.D.) High School, has been running his own business for three years. His original assignment was to create a mock business complete with legitimate prices and a full business plan.

But Bruns took it a step further, learning how to make his own tackle, then making some for family and friends, and eventually others. That is pure awesome on his, his teacher’s, and his school’s part.

— Kudos as well to the fine folks at Bergen Lutheran Church in rural Bristol. Proceeds from their annual threshing bee stayed in the community when they donated them to neighboring Westside Wesleyan Church. That Bristol church was devastated by a July 20 fire.

— Mosquitoes have not seemed to have been much of a problem in Aberdeen this summer. So a tip of the hat to those who control such pests, because you know we would be screaming, editorially speaking, for relief if the population was going uncontrolled.

— Tiny houses continue to make their way into our area. We like it as options for affordable housing are always welcome.

— Let the good South Dakota folks at Freeman (population 1,308) be an inspiration to us all.

The community 35 miles north of Yankton is in the heart of chislic country. They came up with the idea of hosting the South Dakota Chislic Festival. Hoping for hundreds, the first one recently drew thousands. The second one for next summer is already being planned.

The lesson is even the smallest of ideas — and meats — may turn out to the biggest successes.

— South Dakota is fortunate to have generous health organizations such as Sanford and Avera. The list of ways they help us in this state are endless, and today, it is Avera’s turn in the spotlight.

Avera Health and the University of South Dakota have partnered to form what officials are calling a “history-making scholarship” to bring more Native Americans into the medical career field.

The Avera Health American Indian Scholarship Program Fund will provide $24,000 over four years for Native American students who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes in South Dakota or the upper Midwest and who are enrolled at USD’s Sanford School of Medicine.

“This is a population we need to work very closely with to encourage participation, not only in med school, but coming back to South Dakota to practice medicine,” said Bob Sutton, Avera Health president and CEO. “It will build pathways to enhance health care in some of the most vulnerable parts of the nation.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, Aug. 6

Hisses and cheers

CHEERS to Mitchell School District’s summer lunch program, which expanded this summer and saw more people utilize the service.

Approximately 17,000 lunches and 7,700 breakfasts were distributed this year. The program, which serves healthy food, grew for another year.

We love this summer option for students and adults, as it ensures everyone can get a good meal for a fair price. We hope school officials continue to find ways to improve an already great program.

HISSES to the wicked weather that rolled through southeastern South Dakota late Saturday night into Sunday morning.

Yikes, there were some loud cracks of thunder and shots of lightning with the severe weather — even some hail that pelted the Mitchell region along with a 67 mph wind gust. Luckily, this storm didn’t have any areas of flash flooding and no major damage reported. We only heard of some downed tree branches.

Southwest of Mitchell there was a tornado warning issued, and that always leaves us remembering the powerful tornadoes that smacked Delmont in 2015 and Wessington Springs in 2014.

Let’s hope we can get through another summer without major damage from a storm.

CHEERS to the Mitchell Post 18 Legion baseball team, which for the second straight year took runner-up at the state tournament.

We applaud Mitchell’s players, parents and coaches for another successful year. While a state title wasn’t in order this season, second place is a heck of a great year.

Headed up by coach Luke Norden, Post 18 is consistently competitive. We applaud the team for its never-say-die attitude at the state tournament.

HISSES to the news that more mosquitoes are around the city this year, mostly due in large part to the wet weather we’ve had.

It’s hard to complain about all the great rain we’ve had this year, but if there’s one downfall it’s that moisture helps those pesky little mosquitoes so much. That also means a heightened risk of West Nile virus.

While there still is plenty of mosquito season left, we remind everyone to apply bug repellent often when outdoors.

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