Just another WordPress weblog

Jan 10

Rapid City schools sound warning on waning reserves

Category: Uncategorized

By Denise Ross

When Gov. Rounds visited Rapid City a month ago and delivered his now-familiar rant against growing school savings account, he paused to hold up Rapid City’s public school system as a district that has not displeased him.

Now, KELO reports that Rapid City’s school district is an example for those beating the drums for more school aid. The reserve account is about to run dry.

The Rapid City School District’s reserves had more than $12 million during the 2005-2006 school year. That number was cut in half this year, and the district expects it to drop another $5 million next year, bringing it down under $2 million.Â

Once the money’s gone, the cuts will begin, said the district’s budget director, Dave Janak.

“When you’ve got a budget of 85 % salaries and benefits it (cuts) will certainly include people,” says Janak.

Â

No comments

Jan 10

Why Johnson endorsed Obama

Category: Blogroll, Daschle

By Denise Ross

Sen. Tim Johnson’s endorsement of Barack Obama for president is a signal that the two-term senator has no intention of fading away.

This from the Mitchell Daily Republic:

Johnson said he chose Obama because the candidate “makes sense in that he’s bipartisan and insists on bridging the differences between parties.”

p1010102.JPG

Here, Johnson visits the Boys and Girls Club in Brookings. (Photo courtesy of Brookings Register)

Johnson’s re-election prospects in 2008 have been the subject of much speculation since signs of marked improvement in his physical condition and speech are hard to come by more than a year after he suffered a stroke-like brain injury.

While Johnson had been reticent to endorse any presidential candidate, he’s now publicly backing Obama, citing his fellow senator’s ability to bridge the partisan divide. A reasonable and credible rationale. (That, and Tom Daschle asked.)

But I believe Johnson picked a candidate to signal that he’s still very much engaged in the political goings-on, that he’s a player, that - damn the torpedoes - he’s charging full-speed ahead. He announced his endorsement during a swing through eastern SD, during which he held substantive and lengthy discussions with various groups. (In Mitchell, it was an education discussion at the McGovern Center at Dakota Wesleyan U.)

As the first days of 2008 tick by, and as we get closer to the time when we will know for certain whether Johnson stays in the race and whether Rounds jumps in, what can Johnson do to puff himself up so as to appear more intimidating to any rivals? Â

Â

1 comment

Jan 9

McGovern: Bush bad, but Congress no prize, either

Category: George McGovern

By Denise Ross

Perhaps the only surprise in George McGovern’s call to impeach President Bush and VP Cheney this past weekend was that he formalized the complaints he’s been voicing for years in the vaunted pages of the Washington Post.

The president has led this country into a vainglorious mess in Iraq.

That’s not a line from McGovern’s Washington Post piece. That’s from the South Dakota Democratic Party’s McGovern Day in the early fall of 2004, in Yankton as I recall.

The three-term US Senator is getting considerably more attention this time. He told NPR’s Talk of the Nation audience Wednesday that the response is off the charts, with more than 4,000 e-mails coming to his office in Mitchell - running about 95 percent in support of his position.

The Washington Post has  been deluged with a response that’s almost unheard of, he said on NPR.

While he saves his anger for Bush and Cheney, he levels disappointment at those serving on Capitol Hill. He answered a caller’s question about checks and balances like this:

I think it’s quite clear that Congress laid down on the job. They didn’t provide the kind of legislative check that they should have on this war in Iraq.

I think there should have been a great many voices raised in both the House and the Senate about our involvement in Iraq, a country that was no threat to us, a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attack.

When that information began to come out that they’d been misled, they should have moved right at that point to put a check on this war, to set a deadline for the withdrawal of forces. That I’m calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney is not to exonerate the Congress.

Is McGovern calling for the same kind of revolution that Thomas Jefferson fancied?

Â

1 comment

Jan 9

Kirkeby predicts victory on university closure bill

Category: Uncategorized

By Denise Ross

Rep. Mark Kirkeby, R-Rapid City, still isn’t saying which of South Dakota’s publicly-run university should be closed, but he is predicting victory for his to-be-unveiled bill designed to winnow out an institution of higher learning.

_1081508.JPG

Kirkeby waits for Gov. Mike Rounds to deliver his State of the State address on Tuesday. (Photo by Denise) Â

Kirkeby told Hoghouse Blog:

We’ll get it passed. Damn right we will. The opportunity for an outside agency to go through and outline redundancies and efficiencies … (insert arched eyebrow here).

I thought that was a rather bold pronouncement, even though my initial report on his plans has sparked a statewide debate, complete with an editorial cartoon.

Kirkeby hinted that he’s lined up the support to believe his confidence is warranted. He also indicated that his focus has shifted more to a study by a third party.

The bill will be a soft version of the hard statements that were made.

The former county commissioner said that no one from either the Governor’s Office or the Board of Regents since the story about his bill broke. He did get a Christmas Eve call from Tad Perry, executive director of the Regents. But that was to offer Kirkeby an update on the Regents broad plans rather than to discuss Kirkeby’s proposal.

Given that the Regents have bitten off a rather large chunk this session, including their request to spend a lot of money on capital improvements, it strikes me that Kirkeby’s bill could change the complextion of the entire discussion. And the tech schools tug-of-war hasn’t surfaced. Yet.

Â

Â

No comments

Jan 9

The rancher and the farmer, BFF on tax reform

Category: Uncategorized

By Denise Ross

Rep. Paul Dennert, D-Columbia, (and farmer) has a tax reform plan that goes nicely with a plan offered by Rep. Gordon Howie, R-Rapid City, (and rancher).

Howie told the RC Journal that he wants to launch a bill that would raise the sales tax by 2 cents as a way to cut property taxes by a third. Dennert told the Hoghouse Blog that he has a bill - on his desk, even - that would eliminate property taxes on agricultural property as a source of school funding.

Howie said:

This will be a huge step toward fairness in taxation.

Dennert said:

It creates a discussion as to why we have to do something.

That “something” that we have to do is reform the property tax system as it now exists, largely because it’s become unfair to the point of buzz about lawsuits. Dennert says that the reform plan coming out of a summer study group would make agricultural property “revenue neutral,” which is a beauracratic way of saying the total amount of money collected from ag property won’t go up, won’t go down.

Dennert contends that would leave much of the $14 billion worth of property that’s now off the books still off the books.

According to Dennert’s early estimates, his plan would take about $70 million out of the schools’ collective budgets. The beauty of the plan is that under the current school funding formula, the state would seamlessly fill in that $70 million, thus leaving the schools’ budgets unaffected. BUT leaving the farmer and rancher in better financial shape.

Now, since much of the state’s contribution to the school funding formula comes from sales tax, this is where Howie’s plan could come in.

Since Howie’s bill is as of yet undrafted, the Hoghouse proposes that he join up with Dennert, load up that bipartisan shotgun and answer Gov. Rounds’ mandate to reform property taxes THIS session.

Â

No comments

Jan 9

Bipartisan smiles

Category: Uncategorized

By Denise Ross

_1081530.JPG

SD Senate Majority Leader Dave Knudson, at left, and Senate Minority Leader Scott Heidepriem, were all smiles Tuesday afternoon as they awaited their turn to enter the House chamber as part of the pomp and circumstance surrouding the gov’s State of the State address.

The pair get along famously, and both are Sioux Falls lawyers who have switched party affiliations. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Is there an issue waiting in the wings that will tear apart this happy union? School funding? Open records? Mountain lion season?

Â

No comments

Jan 8

Rounds: SD not preferred Hyperion site

Category: Uncategorized

By Denise Ross

The potential future home to an oil refinery in southeast South Dakota is not the preferred site for Hyperion, the Texas company that’s planning to build a refinery somewhere in the Midwest.

Gov. Mike Rounds told reporters that Monday afternoon during a briefing in advance of his State of the State address on Tuesday.

In his speech to lawmakers, laden with talk about energy - the need to both develop it and to conserve it, Rounds made note of the Hyperion situation and focused a bit more on the proposed Canadian oil pipeline that would run through eastern South Dakota.

But during the Monday briefing - the content of which was embargoed until Tuesday afternoon - Rounds got into a bit more detail about the status of a Hyperion-owned refinery near Elk Point.

We are on a short list. We are not the preferred site.

The governor said he has assured Hyperion officials that state regulators would not burden the company with red tape and environmental regulation - “We roll out the red carpet in South Dakota, not the red tape,” - but that the governor and state officials would not “cut corners.”

Rounds said that he stressed to Hyperion honchos that he would expect them to live up to their claims that the new refinery would be a modern, more envorinmentally friendly oil refinery - truly a 21st century refinery.

Â

3 comments

Jan 8

CORRECTION: Hunting age bill seeks age 10, not 8

Category: Uncategorized

By Denise Ross

The Hoghouse regrets that I got it wrong when I reported that Rep. Mike Buckingham’s bill would seek a hunting age of 8.

A commenter, Chris VandenTop, was correct when he questioned whether the new minimum age sought would be 10.

Buckingham said that he will ask state lawmakers to lower the minimum hunting age for those kids who don’t live on the property to be hunted from 12 to 10.

Â

No comments

Jan 8

Rounds: Fix property tax mess this session

Category: Uncategorized

By Denise Ross

Gov. Mike Rounds vowed to drive a stake through the heart of the 150 percent rule -Â a state law that was an attempt to temper rising property taxes but has left the state in a mess, he told lawmakers Tuesday during his State of the State address.

_1081567.JPG

Gov. Mike Rounds: ‘Go ahead, punk, throw out more sales when assessing property’s taxable value!’ (Photo by Denise Ross)

With the governor actively promoting property tax reform, it stands a greater chance than otherwise of actually happening - so now, like maybe, it’s a 10 to 1 shot something can be hammered out before the end of February. (Yeah, I know there was a summer study. That is generally the kiss of death for any piece of legislation.)

In an hour-plus speech, Rounds spent about 2 minutes on the need for property tax reform, making it one of his more succinct points.

We are rapidly approaching the point where the present system is no longer usable. We need to fix this problem this legislative session.

Rounds said that some property owners pay taxes based on the true (or nearly so) value of their property, while others are paying taxes on less than half the true value. That’s because the 150 % rule requires county officials, when figuring up property taxes, to throw out any sale price that’s more than 150 % of the previously assessed value. So if suddenly your neighborhood became trendy, and your $80,000 house sold for $160,000 (200 %), the taxes would still be figured as if the property was valued at $80,000.

BUT - if your neighborhood only got slightly more trendy, and your $80,000 house sold for $110,000 (about 138 %), then the new tax bill is based on that $110k value. SO the fancier, more expensive place is still paying taxes as if it were on the wrong side of the tracks.

Anyway, the governor wants it fixed. So do lots of other folks. Does that mean it will happen?

Â

Â

1 comment

Jan 8

Session opens to SWAG

Category: Uncategorized

By Denise Ross

I went to the House chamber Monday night to test out Mr. Hoghouse’s fancy camera - complete with super-fancy new Christmas lens - and there I found shiny gifts laid out on each legislator desk.

_1071487.JPG

The nice folks at Heartland Consumer Power District (think Big Stone power plants) handed out these coffee thermos things. (Looks like the new lens works just fine.)

_1071501.JPG

Personalized, even.

It is the season of SWAG at the Capitol. Legislators get lots o’ stuff - from live plants to candy to shiny coffee thermos things.

What’s the best and worst of SWAG you’ve seen - at any venue?

Â

11 comments

Next Page »