HUNHOFF: Referred Law 14 is just another blow to S. Dakota schoolsWhat’s more important? Education or economic development? That’s the issue with Referred Law 14 that your editorial of Oct. 25 didn’t address.
By: Bernie Hunhoff , Guest columnist
What’s more important? Education or economic development? That’s the issue with Referred Law 14 that your editorial of Oct. 25 didn’t address.
The governor and Republican legislators cut our K-12 schools by $50 million in 2011, plus they slashed spending for tech schools and education at all levels. Yet, that same year, they started a new $18 million program with general funds that would otherwise go to schools and health care.
Democrats told the governor’s staff that we would support his initiative if we could find an appropriate funding source that didn’t drain even more money from the schools, but they rammed this through the legislature because they had the votes.
They also started a new $5 million program called “Manpower” that helps just a few large companies recruit workers from other states. Why is that necessary when we have unemployment in South Dakota? Because we haven’t had the resources to educate some of our own youth, and they don’t have the work skills.
Education is the best form of economic development. Everybody agrees with that. Yet we’ve decimated education spending while starting new programs for a few large companies that do not need subsidies or bail-outs from state government.
Philosophically, I’m not sure politicians can or should be picking winners and losers in the marketplace. I think everybody should pay equal taxes, whether they are small companies or large.
In the real world, I could be convinced that we need to be competitive with other states in attracting companies. But lack of a corporate income tax is the biggest tax bonus you could give any company.
And I don’t believe that smart companies make longterm decisions on where to locate based on tax policy. It makes no sense. They look for skilled workers, good schools, transportation, quality of life, research and technology capabilities and a number of other factors that far outweigh the little they pay in contractor’s excise tax.
But politicians are salesmen if nothing else. They love to be part of a deal. They’ll give away pencils, magnets or millions of your tax dollars if they can claim credit for the sale.
I don’t blame the companies for playing the politicians for all they can get. But someone has to say “Stop. Enough. This isn’t making any sense.”
That’s up to the voters in this case. We can end this wasteful spending by voting “no” on Referred Law 14. If we don’t, our schools suffer another blow and many of our own youth will lack the skills needed in today’s workplace.
Bernie Hunhoff, of Yankton, is a business owner, state lawmaker and former Democratic candidate for governor.