OUR VIEW: For SD voters, it’s Noem vs. Varilek, Obama vs. Romney and a whole lot morePacked — and sometimes confusing — ballots await South Dakota voters when they arrive at the polls for Tuesday’s general election.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
Packed — and sometimes confusing — ballots await South Dakota voters when they arrive at the polls for Tuesday’s general election.
Although the presidential race between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney has captured the attention of the nation, South Dakota voters must consider many other issues that may affect how we pay our taxes, how we educate our students, how we try to woo large businesses to set up shop within our borders, and even how much we should pay lawmakers for driving to Pierre for the opening of the legislative session.
Here is a brief rundown of issues and races that will be on Tuesday’s ballot, along with The Daily Republic’s opinion on each.
• Constitutional Amendment M: An amendment relating to corporations in South Dakota.
At present, the state Constitution contains various restrictions on the Legislature’s authority to enact laws regarding corporations. An example: Corporate directors must be elected by cumulative voting, in which a shareholder may choose to cast all votes for a single candidate or spread the votes among two or more candidates. Also, corporate stock or debt may not be increased without prior notice to and consent of current stockholders.
Our view: Few people will be affected by this or really even know much about it. We will vote in favor, since it is backed by the governor, various business organizations and the State Bar. When put before the Legislature, it received only one “no” vote, and nobody even was found to write a statement against the proposal for the secretary of state’s informational election pamphlet.
• Constitutional Amendment N: An act to repeal a restriction on travel reimbursement for members of the state Legislature.
At present, lawmakers receive only 5 cents per mile for their initial trip to Pierre each legislative session, and another 5 cents per mile for their final trip home at session’s end. Amendment N would allow a new rate to be set.
Our view: Vote yes on Amendment N, to erase this archaic law from our books. Lawmakers deserve better.
• Constitutional Amendment O: A plan for changing the method for distributions from the state Cement Plant Trust Fund.
More than a decade ago, proceeds from the sale of the state cement plant were placed in trust, with the interest to be annually used in the state general fund. Amendment O would replace the existing method for distributions of the fund, requiring a yearly transfer of 4 percent of the market value of the fund to be used in support of education.
Our view: We will vote yes on Amendment O, since it is backed by both Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature as well as the governor’s office.
• Constitutional Amendment P: An amendment to the Constitution adding balanced budget requirements.
The attorney general explains Amendment P as this way: While the Constitution restricts the state from incurring debt, it does not require the state to have a balanced budget. Amendment P requires the governor to propose a balanced budget and prohibits legislative appropriations from exceeding anticipated revenues and existing funds.
Our view: We will vote no on Amendment P. We do feel the state should have a balanced budget, but creating a law that requires it could lead to new taxes being levied based only upon estimated revenue.
We prefer to leave the process as it exists today.
• Referred Law 14: An act to create a Large Project Development Fund, to be used to attract large business projects to South Dakota.
Referred Law 14 would take 22 percent of contractors’ excise tax dollars from the state general fund and use that money to provide grants for projects that could rev South Dakota’s economic engine.
Our view: We worry that if enacted, RL 14 will lack the transparency that it deserves. We also worry about the process by which the grants will be handed out.
However, we are in favor of RL 14 because we feel that offering grants to job-creating businesses is best for South Dakota. We hope RL 14 passes, but we likewise hope the state will immediately set about ironing out the wrinkles we see in the process.
• Initiated Measure 15: A measure to increase the state sales tax by 1 percentage point to create a fund to be used for K-12 education and Medicaid.
This measure comes in response to recent budget cuts by Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the Legislature. At present, South Dakotans pay 4 percent sales tax; if approved, the tax would be raised to 5 percent.
Although proponents say it’s “just a penny,” that’s only true on a $1 purchase. IM 15 would raise somewhere around $180 million annually, which actually is 18 billion pennies.
Further, it’s a 25 percent tax increase on purchases. It’s also money that lawmakers cannot access for the general good of the state.
Our view: Vote against IM 15. We aren’t against a raise in the state sales tax, but any raise in South Dakota should be used to boost the state’s general fund, not just two distinct groups without a sunset date and without legislative oversight. Also, we contend that individual school districts already have funding options at their disposal and that this proposal simply skirts decisions already made by the governor and Legislature — the very people we voted into office to make these decisions for us.
• Referred Law 16: A wide-reaching program to reform South Dakota schools and how they’re run.
RL 16 would establish a teacher scholarship program, create a program for math and science teacher bonuses, create a program for teacher merit bonuses, mandate a uniform teacher/principal evaluation system and eliminate requirements for teacher tenure.
Our view: Although opponents of RL 16 claim there is no correlation between merit pay and student achievement, we still believe this plan is worth a shot. We say that the best teachers deserve the best pay, and do believe that this plan will be a significant motivator for all teachers, good and bad.
Some teachers — but certainly not all — deserve raises and deserve to be wellpaid. We also believe scholarship programs and math/science bonuses will benefit the state long-term, and also feel uniform evaluations for teachers/principals are a good way to pinpoint the best and the worst educators. We firmly believe the best and the worst should be found and then rewarded or discarded, respectively.
We are in favor of Referred Law 16.
• U.S. House: Incumbent Republican Kristi Noem vs. Democratic challenger Matt Varilek.
Varilek comes into the race with vigor, claiming Noem has been skipping key meetings during her two-year term and that she has not been a strong advocate for South Dakota. Noem counters that she has skipped some meetings, but that she attends every meeting that is important to South Dakota and that her overall House voting rate is 98 percent or better.
Our view: We have endorsed Noem based upon the experience she already has gained in Washington, her background as a business owner and her quick rise up the ladder of political leadership.
• U.S. president: Incumbent Democrat Barack Obama vs. Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Obama is seeking his second term after his landmark and historic victory four years ago. He promised great change in America; whether or not voters believe he has brought that change is the key to Tuesday’s election. Meanwhile, Romney has emerged as a strong challenger by claiming Obama has not followed up on vows of job creation, non-partisan leadership and economic reform.
Our view: Management of the entire Forum Communications Co. chain of newspapers has endorsed Romney, based upon his combined background of business, government and leadership.
Obama is not to blame for all of the economic woes that grip America, but he also didn’t accomplish enough in his first term to merit another four years.