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Klumb makes 'difficult decision,' supports tax increase for teacher pay

Without a change of heart from one local legislator, a bill meant to raise teacher pay could have died in the House. Rep. Joshua Klumb, R-Mount Vernon, was one of three representatives to change his vote on Tuesday on a bill to raise the South Da...

Without a change of heart from one local legislator, a bill meant to raise teacher pay could have died in the House.

Rep. Joshua Klumb, R-Mount Vernon, was one of three representatives to change his vote on Tuesday on a bill to raise the South Dakota sales tax by a half percent to increase the state's lowest-in-the-nation average teacher salaries and reduce property tax rates. Klumb joined Rep. Scott Craig, R-Rapid City, in shifting their votes in favor of the bill, while Rep. Dennis Feickert, D-Aberdeen, decided to vote against the proposal.

Klumb had the opportunity to make the change after the bill fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass a tax increase on Thursday. The bill was later resurrected by Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, through a procedural maneuver.

After speaking with several constituents over the weekend, Klumb decided the bill needed to go forward to continue the dialogue on education funding.

"It was not a decision I made lightly - or I guess I can't even say with a whole lot of pleasure - because raising taxes should always be the most difficult decision you ever make," Klumb told The Daily Republic on Tuesday.

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Klumb said he received pressure from both proponents and opponents after voting against the bill Thursday, including pressure to support the proposal from Gov. Dennis Daugaard. But Klumb said Daugaard's push to gain his vote did not influence his decision.

"I want to make it clear, I didn't give into anybody's pressure one way or the other," Klumb said. "I made this decision carefully on my own."

With the vote making its way through the House, Klumb said the education funding formula and proposed caps to school reserve funds still need to be assessed. Klumb said schools in his district - which includes Aurora, Davison and Jerauld counties - are running a "tight ship" in terms of reserves, while other school districts in the state may be "a little bit bloated" in their reserve funds. He hopes those issues can be addressed in the two Senate bills regarding education funding.

Despite Schoenbeck's amendment ensuring 63 percent of revenue generated through a tax increase is used to raise teacher salaries, Klumb said his biggest fear in voting for HB 1182 is whether the increased funding that's aimed to increase teacher salaries if the Senate approves the bill could be used elsewhere.

"If we do come back in a couple years and say, 'Where'd all that money go?' I'm going to be rather upset," Klumb said.

After changing his vote, Klumb isn't anticipating any backlash from the House Republican leadership.

Following Monday's vote, Schoenbeck, who helped bring the bill back before the House, was blocked from entering the House Republican caucus. He announced his resignation from the Legislature on Tuesday.

Unlike the situation involving Schoenbeck, Klumb said fellow party members remain cordial, but perhaps less so than they were prior to Monday's vote.

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"I will say people aren't as friendly as they were the day before, but I'm not here to be everyone's friend," Klumb said. "I was elected to make decisions that are hard, and I did that."

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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