OUR VIEW: Thanks to Daugaard, deficit not still an issueThe 2012 legislative session is hitting full stride, and nobody’s talking much about the budget. That’s something resembling a miracle, and the credit should go to Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
The 2012 legislative session is hitting full stride, and nobody’s talking much about the budget. That’s something resembling a miracle, and the credit should go to Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
Prior to last year’s legislative session, having only been in office for a period of days, Daugaard announced his seemingly audacious plan to eliminate a $127 million budget deficit in one year. How audacious was it? So much so that House Democratic Leader Bernie Hunhoff, of Yankton, felt comfortable telling The Daily Republic that “the governor’s plan is not going to be the plan.” The governor, undaunted, took his case to the public with a series of presentations around the state. By the time the plan was considered by the Legislature, he had enough lawmakers on board, and the deficit was swiftly obliterated.
It was an astonishing achievement, especially for a for a governor who, by the time the balanced budget was adopted, had served only a few months in office.
While making his case to eliminate the deficit, Daugaard often used colorful language like “ripping the Band-Aid off.” He was very clear and deliberate in saying that he wanted to end the state’s constant bickering over the deficit and the various ideas for eliminating or reducing it.
“We don’t want to have this discussion year after year,” he said last January. “Let’s take our medicine once.”
He also expressed a hope that with the budget deficit squarely behind them, lawmakers could move on to ideas that might improve the state.
The medicine has been swallowed and, though it’s still working its way through the state and its side effects are not yet fully known, one thing is clear: The governor was absolutely right in predicting that eliminating the structural deficit would free up legislators to talk about other matters.
This year, the main focus of the Legislature seems to be Daugaard’s package of proposals to improve K-12 schools. His plan includes an eventual end to so-called “tenure,” and higher pay for teachers in high-demand fields and for teachers deemed to be the best in their respective districts.
Had the governor not insisted so strongly last year that the structural deficit be eliminated, it would still be with us, and legislators would now be engaged in their familiar griping about spending, revenues, cuts and reserves.
Instead, the governor, legislators and educators are engaged in a productive discussion about improving our schools. And for that, the governor deserves hearty praise.