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MERCER: Santa delivered early gifts to SD

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opinion Mitchell,South Dakota 57301
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MERCER: Santa delivered early gifts to SD
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Bob Mercer, Capitol Correspondent  PIERRE — Some Christmas gifts came early to South Dakota during 2013.

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• $19 million of construction-tax refunds that businesses didn’t collect …

The governor is treating this cash as free to use for other purposes of state government, now that the refund program has expired.

• An extra $68.5 million of unclaimed property receipts that wasn’t expected …

This giant bag of cash and other goodies belongs to other people, but so little is ever claimed by its owners that the Legislature and the governor are using this windfall for state government.

• The October blizzard wasn’t worse …

We still don’t know how many cattle and other livestock were lost in western South Dakota, and we’re still learning the expenses for cities, rural electric cooperatives, counties and townships.

• School districts, state government employees and providers of Medicaid services are recommended for 3 percent raises …

Creative budget moves by Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s staff and the huge amounts of one-time revenue from unclaimed property and leftover tax refunds made this possible.

• The South Dakota Retirement System is in the black again …

The trustees and the Legislature had the backbone to avoid repeating recent mistakes made in more exuberant times, while Matt Clark, Tammy Otten and their staff at the State Investment Office kept their eyes on long-term goals.

• Two state boards put their permit hearings on hold for the Powertech uranium mining project …

The delays mean the Board of Minerals and Environment and the Board of Water Management decided Powertech needs to get its federal permits lined up first.

• Larry Pressler dips his toe in the water again …

The Republican ponders whether he should run as an independent in 2014 for the U.S. Senate seat he lost in 1996 to Democrat Tim Johnson.

• Rick Weiland shows no fear …

Weiland stepped into the void as the Democrats’ only candidate after Johnson declines to run again for U.S. Senate and embarks on an ambitious campaign that takes him to 246 communities in the first six months.

• Four men and one woman start campaigning for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate …

Former Gov. Mike Rounds was first in, but there should be plenty of choices for Republican voters in the June 2014 primary, with state Sen. Larry Roden, state Rep. Stace Nelson, Annette Bosworth and Jason Ravnsborg saying they’re in, too.

• Josh Spies completes the two portraits of Bill Janklow for the Capitol …

He refused during his lifetime to join the other former governors whose portraits hang on the walls of the first floor.

Now he’s the only one with two paintings, as in other states, with each covering two of his record four terms.

• Sandy Zinter, Pam Roberts and Deb Bowman wrap up careers in state government …

They all worked at the Cabinet level or higher for governors Janklow, Rounds and Daugaard since the mid-1990s, and Pam’s service goes back through Miller, Mickelson and Janklow I.

• The executive branch became more open to the public …

The new rules-hearing website was another step in advancing transparency by the Daugaard administration, and their approach on public records was generally cooperative.

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