Due to finishing work on a book and a major project at work this blog will be on temporary hiatus until after New Years Day 2015. At that time I will be focusing upon the South Dakota 2015 legislative session, including traveling to Pierre to cover the session.
SD Governor Daugaard just finished his budget proposal for FY16. I still need time to look through the details of the budget proposal, but overall I don’t think Daugaard did too bad of a job on this one. There are some areas I disagree with, but most of those I will blog about during the legislative session when I analyze the bills the expenditures are tied to.
On the good side there is a 2% increase being given to education. That is .5% above inflation. Personally I think more should have been given to education as a way to increase teacher pay. But honestly, until school boards around the state start to take responsibility for their part in teacher pay I can’t see the state giving more money.
A low-light in this budgetary address was the reduction in revenue coming from the Unclaimed Property fund. Many of us felt this source of revenue was leaned upon too hard in the 2015 budget. It was project that in FY 2015 (which we are half way through) that only $5.5 million would be paid out to people wanting their money back. But so far this year $5.8 million dollars have been paid out. That caused the Governor to adjust the payout expectation from Unclaimed Property to $10 million in FY15. I hope the legislature will take note of this during the 2015 legislative session and not rely upon this money. Daugaard said this higher payout was due to an increase in awareness of Unclaimed Property. I think that is great, much of this money should never have been taken by the state…
Here is the chart looking at Unclaimed Property that Daugaard used:
Looking at the chart it can be seen that the state still uses a lot of Unclaimed Property money. Even with the extra payout to the rightful owners of this money, there is still $54 million that is being used by the state. Hopefully the legislature will remember this money is not truly theirs and is a potential liability when passing the budget this upcoming session.
The last thing I want to mention is highway funding. At the conclusion of his proposal Daugaard mentioned the highway summer study and that he was looking forward to the discussion. Senator Vehle is likely to push for a plethora of new and higher taxes to pay for infrastructure coming out of the summer study. The progression of that debate will impact how the overall budget looks. Perhaps that will end up taking away that extra .5 percent increase being proposed for education.
Over the 2015 legislative session it should be interesting to see how close the legislature will follow this budget. Personally I don’t think the legislature will put up much of a fight to any of Daugaard’s proposals. Any fights will likely revolve around changes to deal with the results of the highway summer study.
Proponents of ACA (Obamacare) have often said that this is not a government takeover of healthcare. Of course there have also been other untruths such as bringing the cost of healthcare down and being able to keep your doctor. Technically proponents of ACA may be correct in one aspect, this is not a direct takeover of healthcare, but rather an attempt to directly take over the healthcare insurance industry. Of course controlling the money that flows into the healthcare industry can been seen as a default attempt to take the industry over.
What would happen if the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decided it was their job to pick the plans of people re-enrolling themselves on the exchange? That is what they are proposing in new regulations recently released. Current law allows exchange enrollees in most states auto-renew their plan each year with the same plan. The proposed change would allow HHS to switch the default option and let HHS choose the best plan for them upon re-enrolling. Why would HHS want this power? Here is what Charles Hughes over at CATO has to say:
In one sense, it is not surprising that HHS is at least exploring this option. Automatic renewal presents a host of potential problems.
Due to the way the law designed the exchange subsidies, many of these people will end up paying significantly more if they automatically renew. An analysis by the New York Times found that people in the most popular plans would face an average premium increase of 9.5 percent. This could end up affecting millions of people, as a recent Gallup poll found that 68 percent of respondents said they planned to renew their current plan.
This would be a way for the HHS to artificially make it seem exchange prices are staying low for those enrolled. It would also potentially cause problems for those very same people when going to a doctor and suddenly find out they are on a lower plan that no longer covers their doctor of preference. That isn’t quite the same as government takeover of healthcare, but it sure is close enough to cause some serious havoc to people’s lives. Of course the HHS doesn’t have to worry about how they are impacting people’s lives; instead the HHS only has to make it look like they are doing things that will theoretically help people.
So no, this is not technically a takeover of healthcare. It is actually worse. It is intervention without regards to how it impacts people’s lives.
PS. Somewhat related. Remy over at Reason.tv released this video a couple of weeks ago in response to Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber saying the American people are too stupid to explain truths about Obamacare.
Updated: Changed title of this post, originally I had a stated it was the State of the State address. Apparently I didn’t have enough coffee this morning. The title has been corrected to note this is the budgetary address.
I’m back from a short catch-up-on-work vacation and should be blogging daily(ish) again. To kick off the 2015 political year, today will be the South Dakota budgetary address by Governor Daugaard. It will be broadcast at 1pm Central on the SDPB website. Over at the Argus, David Montgomery said there won’t be too many surprises in this budget address.
It is worth mentioning one portion of Montgomery’s story:
Last year, Daugaard emphasized the state’s tough financial situation before his December budget proposal — and then surprised the state by announcing a huge windfall from the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund that paid for tens of millions of dollars of new spending.
There’s not likely to be anything like that this year. Unclaimed Property revenue was trailing expectations through October, and Daugaard budget chief Jason Dilges said nothing significant had changed through mid-November.
Venhuizen said attention paid to Unclaimed Property revenues has actually cost the state money. Because more people are aware South Dakota has millions of dollars in abandoned property, more people are looking up and claiming their unclaimed property.
There are two takeaways from this Unclaimed Property revenues being down. First, it is great to see that more people are getting their money back from the state. But secondly, maybe the legislature (and Governor) should be leaving unclaimed property alone. This is money that is held in the public trust (similar to water) and technically should not have been used as it was last year. During the State of the State address last year Governor Daugaard announced he was taking $30 million dollars of Unclaimed Property dollars to pre-fund Building South Dakota. Last year many people (including me) said it was unwise to touch this ‘extra’ money because it could be claimed by the rightful owners. It also has to be realized that the sudden surge of unclaimed money last year came from the legislature changing the law so the State can take money after three years of being “unclaimed”; that was down from the previous five years. It should be interesting to hear what Daugaard has to say about these funds not meeting expectations throughout the year.
I’ll be live-tweeting the event and plan to do a post afterwards.
PS. Thank-you to everyone that have been contacting me the last couple weeks wondering why I wasn’t blogging anymore. I did not abandon this blog. I just had to get caught up with my businesses.
On Veterans Day I attended the short assembly held at OM Tiffany, where my two youngest boys attend elementary school. I was proud to stand up alongside a few dozen other veterans. During the ceremony a series of short essays written by students were read to the crowd My middle child Lawson asked if I would post his words about Veterans Day on my blog. Here is his short essay (he’s in fourth grade) about Veterans Day:
We thank veterans for our freedom. Freedom is very important because if we didn’t have freedom wouldn’t be free. I also thank veterans and everyone else that keeps us safe. Thank-you Dad.
Keystone XL is coming into the spotlight again, and will likely receive a vote within the next week on the Senate floor. Recent moves by Senator Landrieu have increased the likelihood that the Senate will vote about whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The House is expected to pass a bill today that will approve the pipeline. No matter what, I would not be surprised to see Keystone XL approved within the next half-year. To me the bigger question is whether it will be now, or during the first few months of the 2015 legislative session.
On Wednesday it was reported by National Journal that Democrat Senator Landrieu stood on the Senate floor and asked for a vote on Keystone XL approval. Since she is in a very tight election runoff for in a state that supports Keystone XL, she has been forced to go against her party and push for a vote on the bill. As the National Journal notes, this vote would be a win for Landrieu whether it passes or not. It will allow her to show that she has fought to approve Keystone XL, while at the same time it would allow most other Democrats to vote no and keep their voting record clean. Personally I think it will pass, there simply is too much support for KXL for the Senate to deny its approval.
If the Senate does not pass the Keystone XL approval, then it will pass with no problems in the 2015 session when Republicans have the majority. Since the bill will pass no matter what, it would probably make sense for the Democrats to pass it now and amend it to include provisions that the Democrats wish. Senator Landrieu’s bill, S 24554, does have a provision I like. It has a clause that ensures the passage of this bill does not give extra eminent domain usage for the construction of the Pipeline that doesn’t already exist in law. The eminent domain abuse involved with KXL in South Dakota is one of the main reasons I have been opposed to the project. This added clause won’t necessarily stop eminent domain abuse, but it prevents one potential legal reasons for any eminent domain abuses that will occur.
To make this even more interesting, Sen Landrieu’s election runoff opponent, Rep Bill Cassidy, is the sponsor of HR 5682. HR 5682 is the House version of the same bill that Landrieu is likely to pass in the Senate. Cassidy’s bill has almost the same exact language as that sponsored by Landrieu. If the House passes this same bill it could cancel out Landrieu’s attempt to gain votes by supporting KXL. Who would have thought a runoff election would make both houses of Congress focus so hard on KXL approval.
Today President Obama said his position on KXL has not changed. Obama has hinted many times recently that he would veto KXL if a bill approving the project made it to his desk. It might be for nothing if he does veto the bill though. The Senate currently has enough Democrat supporters of KXL to potentially override a veto from Obama. And even if the veto override doesn’t happen, there will almost surely be enough votes to override a veto at the beginning of the 2015 session. Either way the KXL is likely to be approved by Congress, and it doesn’t appear there is much Obama can do to stop it.
As I said above, I oppose KXL mostly for eminent domain abuses involved with the project. But I am in a minority when it comes to the national level. A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that roughly 2/3 of respondents support KXL:
Overall support from Democrats and Independents have definitely dropped. But a majority of the country supports KXL. If Democrats are thinking 2016 (which they have to be), then it might be unwise for them to put up too much of a fight against something the public supports.
It will be interesting to see what happens over the next week. Either KXL will be approved soon or we will wait a few months. Either way it looks like KXL will unlikely be held up by the federal government going into next spring. Whether that is a good or a bad thing remains to be seen.
Net Neutrality is a topic that has been on my radar for quite some time. Due to focus on elections I have failed to blog about it; but that changes today. I’ll start with this small post and likely focus on the issue more going forward on this blog.
President Obama’s remarks have caused the issue to gain even more traction. I fully support many of the concepts brought up by the President. These concepts include no blocking of traffic, no throttling certain types of traffic, increased transparency, and no paid prioritization. These are all basic principles of net neutrality. But asking the FCC to reclassify Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) as Title II is not the answer. That would potentially lead to the opposite of a free and open internet.
What is net neutrality? Net neutrality is more of an idea or belief than anything. It is the belief that the internet should be free from manipulation or favoritism by any group. These groups include individuals, ISP’s, governments, or any other type of group. The basic idea is that all internet users will have the same exact access to all information available on the internet. This is the concept I support, and I believe the concept most advocates of net neutrality support.
There is another usage of net neutrality that is often intermixed with the definition as I would use it. This second usage of net neutrality is more focused on the marketing term used by certain groups to allow the FCC to regulate internet access. This second use of net neutrality is not something I support. To me the risks associated with allowing the FCC to regulate internet access far outweigh the perceived benefits.
As I said above the President touted FCC regulation of the internet access as a way to ensure no blocking of traffic, no throttling certain types of traffic, increased transparency, and no paid prioritization. The problem is reclassifying internet access as Title II would suddenly place hundreds of rules and regulations that were setup for the telecommunications industry of the 20th century. Many of those rules can be said to have actually held back progress in certain media fields. These rules also tended to make it hard for new entries in the market. In reality the large telco monopolies coming out of the 20th century are a result of regulatory intervention, and not as a result of free market (there is no true free market in the telco industry).
In order to prevent these outdated rules from negatively impacting the internet it would be up to the FCC to use ‘forbearance’. Forbearance is the term used by the FCC to not follow rules that don’t make sense for a particular area of regulation. Theoretically if the FCC properly uses forbearance it would limit its own power and thus cause minimal unintended consequences to the internet. In order for forbearance to work it would mean the FCC and members of Congress resist any regulations asked for by the big ISP’s to stifle competition. Anyone that follows how DC works should understand that it is almost near impossible to keep special interest groups out of regulation. To ask for internet access to be reclassified as Title II is the same asking for special interest groups in DC to regulate the internet? I can’t see any possible outcome where that would support my original meaning of net neutrality.
Going forward I plan to do more posts about different aspects of net neutrality. In this post I just basically wanted to say that I support the idea of net neutrality, but at the same time I oppose the regulatory use of net neutrality by the FCC. I believe the FCC’s involvement will make internet fairness actually un-achievable. The few cases we have of ISP’s (such as Comcast) doing things against the idea of net neutrality will be basically be protected by FCC regulations in the future through loopholes that will exist at the behest of special interest groups.
PS. To learn more about net neutrality I would check out the EFF. I have supported EFF for years and will continue to do so. The EFF has supported the FCC reclassification of internet access to Title II. But they do it with a lot of reservations and have a lot of good articles explaining different aspects of net neutrality. If the FCC does reclassification (which it likely will) I believe the EFF will be the best watchdog internet users have over the FCC.