Today was the SD gubernatorial debate at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron. All three candidates were in attendance: incumbent Republican Dennis Daugaard, Independent Mike Myers, and Democrat Susan Wismer. Compared to the Dakotafest gubernatorial debate I would say this one was pretty lackluster. It was noted by quite a few attendees after the debate that EB-5 was not a topic of discussion. I’m not sure if this was on purpose, or just because there wasn’t enough time.
Here are some highlights from the debate with a few of my thoughts added in. I’m not doing a complete rundown like I did with the past debate; I’ll only be highlighting new stances or thoughts (don’t get too excited, that doesn’t mean this post will be short). I guess this post is more about getting a viewpoint in the debate that felt missing. The moderator chose only questions about agricultural policy and rural issues.
Daugaard – During his opening statements Daugaard mentioned he “eliminated the deficit caused by the recession”. This was interesting because the non-Republican US Senate candidates have been beating up Rounds (the governor before Daugaard) for leaving the state with a huge deficit at the end his term. I think the thought here was to make sure he is able to tout his accomplishment of eliminating the deficit without throwing Rounds under the bus. Pretty smart move on his part.
Myers – Most notable from his opening remarks is Myers saying “Governor Daugaard and Susan necessarily are for sale. I’ve got a list of the names of people who uh, that bought these people”. Myers then went on to note how little he had raised. I think Myers was trying to point out that both sides are being supported with people who want something in return. Myers on the other hand is saying he only wants to work for the people of SD.
Wismer – I don’t think Wismer said anything in this speech I hadn’t heard from her before. So I’ll take this opportunity to say that Wismer is doing much better at public speaking; compared to a few months ago. I’m not sure if she got a coach, or if it is just from experience over this long campaign. No matter how she improved I am glad to see it. I may not support her as a candidate, but I want a good race and she is doing much better than I predicted in the past.
Funding to repair Roads and Bridges
Daugaard – Daugaard mentioned the State and Federal highways are in pretty good shape. He conceded this due in large part thanks to federal stimulus money received at the beginning of the recession. The small government part of me cringes every time I hear a Republican proud to have used federal dollars to maintain something that should be handled locally. Daugaard then mentioned the County and Township roads are in fair or poor condition. Since Daugaard is committed to improving roads, he says he will not promise this time campaigning that there will be no tax increases. I don’t think Daugaard will get beat up too badly if any tax increases go to the county and townships, where it can be managed and spent locally for infrastructure maintenance.
Myers – Myers noted he has longtime admiration for Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D Roosevelt. Going back to FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (ccc), Myers wants to create the South Dakota Infrastructure Core. Then, according to Myers, whenever someone wants unemployment benefits they “will be given a shovel and put on the road”. He says that is the method of infrastructure repair he will promote. Myers lost me on that one. Public works projects like CCC and the one proposed by Myers don’t really help the economy, they more skew resources and make things look better than they are. But I will give Myers credit for having a solution, albeit one that makes government bigger…
Wismer – I didn’t hear much new from Wismer here (have I been to her events too often?) So for this one I’ll use one of her talking points to make a point I think is worthy of discussion. Wismer once again noted that SD gets more back from the federal government than paid out from the gas tax in South Dakota. She wants to keep that great deal. Unfortunately both the Republican and Democrat candidate are OK with SD taking money from other states to maintain our infrastructure. Personally I think the federal Highway Fund needs to go away and let each state (including SD) decide how to maintain its own roads. That would also mean the federal gas tax would go away and would likely be replaced equally or higher at the state level. Yes, I realize SD would receive less gas tax revenue that way, but it would also have less burdensome and costly requirements that come with the Federal Highway Trust Fund.
No rebuttals this round.
Healthcare and Nursing Homes closing
Myers – Myers said “our healthcare system is taking us into political and economic bankruptcy”. He proposes instead creating a South Dakota Health Insurance Cooperative. That way people will own the system, and not the “big corporate boys”. As to nursing homes, he is proposing the Medicaid expansion with a waiver to prioritize nursing homes. He did come out against Medicaid expansion in the previous debate; but this time he seems to only want to expand Medicaid to bail out the nursing homes. The federal government has been pretty strict on the waivers for Medicaid expansion, I’m not sure his proposal would work. Plus, the fiscal conservative part of me is worried about the federal deficit and debt. The total collapse of the dollar would make current healthcare problems look minor. Its time to be fiscally responsible and avoid expanding Medicaid at the cost of higher national debt.
Wismer – Wismer opened by saying she would stay away from talking Medicaid expansion (which she seem to always talk about), and instead focus on other areas. Wismer said many nursing homes only exist because they benefit from non-profits and paying customers subsidizing them? I’m not sure what she is deriding here. To me it sounds like she is saying the free market has found a solution, and that must be fixed? That just seemed odd to me. She did note that since South Dakota isn’t paying its Medicaid cost, it is imposing more costs on paying customers. She also said SD’s mishandling of Medicaid dollars is causing nursing positions to go underpaid. I’m not sure about that. She really lost me by trying to make the case that non-profits and customers paying for nursing is a bad thing.
Daugaard – Daugaard mentioned SD has very good healthcare. He touted how Avera, Sanford and RC Regional are so great. Here is where Daugaard loses me now. These are the very institutions that are promoting and extending the current healthcare system that drives massive profits to them, while taking people’s hard-earned money for very little in return besides bureaucratic nightmares and never-ending unforeseen costs (now mandated through ACA, anyone really think these institutions truly opposed ACA?)
Wismer Rebuttal – Wismer mentioned SD recently modified the State Employee Health Insurance Plan that makes employees travel to SF or RC for major procedures instead of using mid-size hospitals. This was in reply to Daugaard speaking about rural healthcare issues. I’ll have to look into this more. Wismer’s description is different from I understood it to be.
Myers Rebuttal – Myers noted that monthly insurance premiums are what mortgages used to be. Actually, I know more than a few people who have higher health insurance premiums that are higher than their mortgage payments…
Daugaard Rebuttal – No Rebuttal
Wismer – Wismer noted her uncle was responsible for the local coop installing the first blender pump in the country. I’m not sure that’s really relevant, but its a pretty cool political tidbit. Wismer said ethanol has brought an economic boon to farmers. She disputed two myths that have come up about Ethanol recently with the following facts: E30 is not illegal, and E30 does not harm engines. She then went on to ask Daugaard to put the whole state fleet on E30. I don’t know, apparently I’m out of the loop. I hadn’t heard the rumor E30 is illegal or harmful. I’ve heard it’s actually pretty safe and provides a good octane boost at a low comparative cost to alternatives. I still don’t know if that means E30 for the whole SD state fleet of cars is a good idea, but it is worth considering at least.
Daugaard – Daugaard mentioned all large fuel pumps used by the state already use E15 for its fleet. I think it would be worth it for him to look into E30. He also has sent letters to the EPA supporting higher ethanol blends. He also mentioned SD has more blender pumps than any state in the nation. Daugaard received some cheers outside of his staged crew on this one. SD sure loves its ethanol!
Myers – Myers brought this question to Industrial and Agricultural hemp. He noted hemp doesn’t need fertilizer and it is a good source of ethanol that doesn’t impact the food sources. Many farmers I’ve spoken about in NE SD about hemp seem excited about possibly growing agricultural hemp. It would possibly allow a new agricultural economic boon.
Daugaard – Daugaard basically said this area is doing well and SD should stay the course. I’ll agree with him, except for “incentives” given to corporations. I would prefer that the SD government get out of picking winners and losers in the market.
Myers – Myers noted that economic development begins with education. He said there are huge gaps between education being provided and what the market needs. To fix this, Myers would work to make sure education is aimed towards what is needed. Wow, this will be a tough one. Traditional higher learning facilities love to stay stuck in their bureaucratic ways….. I like that talking point. But I also wish he would have talked about how current GOED operations will or won’t change in his administration.
Wismer – Wismer said she would not allow her GOED to recommend small towns (some “unsophisticated”) be taken advantage of by companies that promise false jobs. Wismer wants to make sure that any company backed by GOED actually backs its claim. I would prefer to hear Wismer say she wants to get her GOED out of picking winners in the market. Why does GOED have to back any particular company over another? At its core, Wismer’s talking points don’t sound too different from the Republican economic development she derides.
Education Cuts – Teacher Pay
Myers – “We like the paper shufflers don’t we” Myers began with. Myers said teachers are at the bottom of the scale. Yet at the same time, he notes administrators in healthcare are ranked number twenty-four. If I follow him right, it pays much better to be a paper shuffler in the healthcare industry than it does to be a teacher. Not unrelated in my opinion, ACA puts more administrative overhead on healthcare, which will probably make Myers claim even more true. Myers also said as Governor he would urge the legislature to repeal Common Core in SD. He said “corporate boys and lobbyists” have taken over healthcare and education, and they need to be removed from it. Its worth noting that Myers is the only of the three gubernatorial candidates that actually oppose Common Core.
Wismer – This is a topic Wismer has spoken on many, many, many, many (did I say many?) times. But I do agree with her that the governor sets the tone of the conversation on education, and perhaps its time for a different governor. I’m just not sure she would do good as that new tone of conversation, she tends to attack back at anyone that thinks school boards should be held accountable right along with the state.
Daugaard – Daugaard mentioned the NEA stat that SD is 51st in the nation for teacher pay (which Wismer often touts). But he also noted the same NEA numbers also have SD as 39th in revenue per student to schools. I think his point is well made here. It is the local school boards that actually set salaries. Perhaps there are valid reasons more money is needed per student in South Dakota (more rural schools, different local needs, etc…). Wismer never really does a good job countering the NEA per student revenue talking point. Because of that it makes it look like Daugaard is looking at the whole picture, and Wismer is only looking at what her political bias says she should say (that may not be true, but it appears that way).
Wismer Rebuttal – Wismer said the $127 million didn’t have to be cut in the budget cut year, and contends it wasn’t needed to balance the budget that year. She also noted education did not get restored with the same percentages as other areas of the budget. Actually, here it sounds like Wismer also believes Rounds didn’t really leave a structural deficit.
Daugaard Rebuttal – Daugaard said cuts could have been avoided, but reserve funds would then have to be used. He said that wouldn’t be good because it would be spending more than we take in. I have to admit, I agree with Daugaard on this one.
Myers Rebuttal – Myers called out Daugaard and Wismer to ask if the would repeal Common Core. The moderator didn’t allow for the answer.
Sales Tax – is the 4% sales tax on used farm equipment fair?
Wismer – Wismer noted there are many inputs farmers don’t pay sales taxes on. She then danced around the definitions of input. In the end she really only said “fair is in the eye of the beholder”.
Daugaard – Most notably here, Daugaard said SD taxes both goods and services, where most states only tax goods. That has allowed the tax base in SD to keep a consistently low tax base.
Myers – Myers noted SD doesn’t like big gov, but SD does like other people’s big gov. That makes us hypocrites. He said because of that he would grab every federal dollar if he was governor. At least he’s honest about it. But, I don’t think he is right. I do think SD can survive without federal dollars (if we send less to the feds). I think a good governor could lead the state down that direction, although it would likely take decades and multiple governors to do so… So in the end I suppose Myers is right, SD is going to remain reliant on the fed gov for quite some time…
Overall this question was odd. It was too direct for broad answers.
Daugaard – Overall Daugaard stuck with his talking points. Which means it was pretty boring. Wismer and Myers didn’t really bring anything at him hard enough to ruffle his feathers.
Myers – Myers spent time talking about the political machine in Pierre. This is a talking point he has used often. More notable though is Myers going after Rounds, Daugaard and Boolen. He said he would like Daugaard to put his hand on the bible and tell all he knows. During that part of Myers speech, Daugaard said “bring it on” a few times. That was the most reactive I’ve seen Dauggard be in a debate. Kudos to Myers for that. But, unless Mercer gets access to the Benda death records with his lawsuit and something is found from that, it is unlikely EB-5 will impact this election at all.
Wismer – Standard Wismer talking points. The only talking point I will counter is that the state government is “handcuffed by extremists on the right”. I disagree. I know more than a few Tea Party members, they all seem pretty confused by Wismer’s talking points. Democrats such as Wismer are giving establishment Republicans such as Daugaard an out by blaming Tea Party types incorrectly.