While attending the Death Penalty Repeal forum one of the legislators I took some time to chat with was Rep Ray Ring (D, Dist 17). Rep Ring is in his second term in the SD state House and hails from the Vermillion area. Like the other conversations in this series, the chat was kept short and focused on 2016.
When talking about the death penalty Rep Ring said his “mind is made up and I’ve been opposed to the death penalty for many years”. He believes a consistent pro-life policy includes being opposed to the death penalty. Rep Ring considers himself to be pro-life and has been a member of South Dakota Right to Life for many years. He says opposing the death penalty and being pro-life is part of a “consistent ethic”.
I then asked Rep Ring about what he is looking at for legislation going into the 2016 session (minus Medicaid Expansion and the Blue Ribbon Task Force). Rep Ring said something needs to be changed about how revenue estimates are arrived at. That is not a surprising answer from Ring, as he is an economist. From an outside perspective I have to agree that revenue estimates may have been too conservative; which in turn has left too much money for the Governor to play with budgetary-wise at the end of the year when there is a large surplus.
On the budgetary side Rep Ring thinks a lot of time will be spent discussion school funding. He believes talking about increasing the sales tax rate will be a huge issue. When talking about these budgetary items (including Medicaid expansion) Rep Ring was worried that so much attention will be focused on the details that the overall big picture will be lost. To further explain, Ring thinks that so much time could be spent looking at a new school funding formula that little focus will be placed upon getting new sources of revenue to the schools. He doesn’t see just simply moving money around the budget as a solution.
This session I hope to catch up with Ring again. There were a few economic questions I’ve been meaning to ask him and I simply forgot them that day.