Greetings from your District 27 Senator Jim Bradford. We have just completed a very busy third week of the Session. I’ve served in the SD Legislature for a total of 12 years (8 years in the House and I recently was re-elected to my third term in the Senate). I’m doing my best to cover those issues which I believe will be of interest to our voters in Bennett, Haakon, Jackson, Pennington, and Shannon Counties. I serve on both the Senate Health and Judiciary Committees but I also pay close attention to what happens on other committees including today when I visited Senate Agriculture.
In the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senate Bill 21 was up for a vote. It would eliminate the ownership inspection for horses and mules and it passed unanimously. The current law requires such an inspection because the word “livestock” is in the law. If this law was consistently enforced as it is written, you would be required to show proof of ownership each and every time you entered or left an area where livestock could be inspected. By changing the word “livestock” to the word “cattle” the brand inspection will now work as intended. The purpose of the law was to guarantee ownership of the cattle before they were transported or sold.
Two other issues of importance to our District and throughout the state are economic development and education funding.
We all believe in economic development, but it must be a wise use of taxpayer’s dollars and lead to true economic growth. Taxpayers deserve as much “bang for their buck” as possible when it comes to economic development. One program that has me concerned is SD Wins.
The SD Wins program was advanced last year through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and was established with a 5 million appropriation from the General Fund. The goal was to recruit 1,000 new workers from outside of SD for hard to fill jobs. The cost of the recruitment of each employee is split 50/50 between state government and the company making the hire.
In the first year of the three year program, SD Wins has spent $500,000 tax dollars to recruit and place 55 employees with ten SD companies. In addition, SD taxpayers pay the Wisconsin-based recruiting company, Manpower, a $49,000 fee each month whether or not there is a new employee recruited that month. This year alone, SD taxpayers have spent an estimated $8,000 per job to recruit these workers to our state, not to mention the required match by the private companies making the hire. If this program is to continue, it is only right to do a cost-benefit analysis and let those results determine its future.
Providing quality schools is often called the very best tool of economic development, especially in bringing growth to our rural communities. When considering whether to locate in any town, large or small, one of the first concerns is the quality of the local school system. One study done by the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis even suggests that providing quality pre-schools has a direct correlation to economic growth in the community.
Education continues to be the dominant issue of our Session. The number of opt-outs now in effect is alarming and proves that the state continues to push the obligation to fund our public schools to local taxpayers. This school year 66 of our 151 public schools are currently in an opt-out with many more Districts likely to try to pass one if the state continues to underfund schools.
The Governor’s Proposed Budget for K-12, brought forth by the Department of Education to Joint Appropriations this week, is a request for a 3.0 percent increase and would raise the funding formula from $4,491 to $4,625 for an increase of $134 per student. (Inflation was actually 3.2 percent but the law says 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less). To put the amount in perspective, the 2008-09 per student allocation was $4,642 so the FY14 amount is $17 less per student than five years ago! We can and must do better for our students! Please continue to share with me your reflections on education cuts and how it has affected your local school.
I invite you to contact me with your questions and concerns on these topics or any of interest to you. I may be reached at 605-685-4241 or Sen.Bradford@state.sd.us
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