District 20: Burg says cuts to education, Medicaid hurt peopleBurg, 63, a Wessington Springs farmer-rancher, served District 22 a total of 10 years in the state House of Representatives, including a four-year stint as assistant House minority leader.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Quinten Burg is philosophical about the redistricting winds that have blown Jerauld County from District 22 to District 20.
“It happens every 10 years,” said Burg, a Democrat. “We’re a small district in the middle of the state and we can be thrown in any direction.”
Burg said he decided to step up and run again to give voters a choice.
“I don’t feel that my sole responsibility is to state government,” he said. “If I’m sent to Pierre I will also be a voice for local government.”
Burg, 63, a Wessington Springs farmer-rancher, served District 22 a total of 10 years in the state House of Representatives, including a four-year stint as assistant House minority leader.
He reminded The Daily Republic that while he was defeated in his bid for re-election to the House in 2010 by Republican challenger Jim White, it was only by a margin of 83 votes.
He said he has the know-how to get the job done.
“It takes time to develop legislative experience,” said Burg, explaining he will not have the same steep learning curve that faces a newcomer to Pierre.
Running for the Senate is new to Burg, who said he welcomes the chance to go head-to-head with incumbent state Sen. Mike Vehle, RMitchell.
“I like the matchup — and especially the fact that it’s a one-on-one race,” he said.
In the House, with more than two candidates, voters are left with the top two vote-getters after an election. In a two-candidate race, voters have a clear choice and outcome.
During his time in the House, Burg said he and District 20 Rep. Lance Carson, R-Mitchell, served together on the Appropriations Committee and became friends. He believes he could work well with him again to handle District 20 business.
“The biggest difference between Sen. Vehle and myself is that I don’t agree with the state’s cuts to education and medical providers,” said Burg, referencing Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s budget trimming. Education and Medicaid providers took the brunt of the cuts, Burg said.
“It’s easy to cut 10 percent, but what many people don’t understand is that cuts at the state level are often shifted to other segments of society,” he said.
“A 10 percent cut means another $13 a day to my mother’s Medicaid bill, and that ends up being an increase of another $4,000 to $5,000 a year,” said Burg, personalizing the effects of such cuts. He said many people in nursing homes have had to shoulder similar cost increases.
Vehle’s support of the state’s cuts points out another difference between himself and his opponent, Burg said.
Burg said the state needs to cut some its own fat before asking the same of its counties and residents.
“The state is sitting on reserves that are greater than they are at local levels. Gov. Bill Janklow would get mad as heck that local school districts kept high reserves,” Burg said.
“He would say, ‘We don’t send dollars to school districts to have them put them in the bank,’ but that’s just what’s happening at the state level, and I don’t think that’s fair.”
It’s a major election issue for Burg.
“The two things we need to do first are to take care of people and to educate our kids. Those are the main responsibilities of government.”
Burg said he’s conflicted about Initiated Measure 15, which would increase the state’s share of sales tax revenues from 4 percent to 5 percent. The extra percent would be used for education and to fund Medicaid.
“I go back and forth every day on that question,” he said. “I hate to raise taxes, but the state hasn’t stepped up to the plate. I’d like to see the Legislature give more funding rather than taking from the people, but I don’t know if they will.”
Medicaid providers took the brunt of the state cuts, Burg said.
“When you make cuts you’re not only cutting state dollars, but you’re also losing those federal matching funds,” Burg said. “That’s why the state’s cuts have been so severe to groups like LifeQuest. It really shrinks their dollars. That means that unless they have more private pay, such organizations end up cutting people.”
Burg is not a fan of Referred Law 16, which creates a bonus payment plan for math and science teachers and an evaluation system for principals and teachers, among other things. He said the issues targeted by the law are already being addressed elsewhere.
Vehle, in the past, has advocated an increase in gasoline taxes to pay for road repairs and improvements.
Burg said cash is needed for road work. “But when people are short of money, we don’t want to increase gas taxes,” he said, preferring to cut in other areas first.
He does believes the state needs to change its funding formula so more cash goes back to local government.
Burg said, “It’s important to send someone back to Pierre who understands how the process works out there. We really need people who can and will speak up on the legislative side,” he said.
“I’m for more open, good government,” he continued, “and I think we need better checks and balances to the executive branch. The legislative branch needs to step up and be the third branch of government it should be.”