South Dakota voters reject governor's top initiatives

2012-11-08T08:57:00Z 2012-11-16T20:23:27Z South Dakota voters reject governor's top initiativesThe Associated Press The Associated Press
November 08, 2012 8:57 am  • 

SIOUX FALLS | While Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard wasn't up for re-election this year, a series of ballot measures amounted to a performance review, and voters didn't give him as high of marks as he might have hoped.

Three of the seven ballot measures dealt with legislation and a constitutional amendment that Daugaard put forward. A fourth proposal to raise the state sales tax to provide more money for schools and health care came in response to his budget cuts.

Voters rejected all but Daugaard's proposed state constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. He tried to put a positive spin on the results, saying their most important action was rejecting the sales tax increase, which he had opposed. He said he would work with lawmakers to try to get some compromise versions of his other initiatives passed.

Elizabeth Smith, who teaches political science at the University of South Dakota, said that could be tougher now because the election results might make state lawmakers leery about revisiting those issues.

"I think when voters produce such a resounding 'no,' it takes a little wind out of the sails of that kind of proposal," Smith said. "I think it's going to be a lot harder for him to convince the Legislature to go down those roads again."

Still, Bob Burns, a retired South Dakota State University political science professor, doubted the election results would hurt the governor in the long run. An improving economy and budget surplus could allow the governor and Legislature to spend more on schools and health care without the sales tax boost, he said.

And the same voters who rejected Daugaard's top initiatives overwhelmingly re-elected a Republican majority in the Legislature to work with him, Burns said.

One of the measures voters rejected was Daugaard's plan to give bonuses to top teachers, phase out tenure and recruit candidates for critical teaching jobs. The Legislature approved the proposal earlier this year, but the state's main teachers union, the South Dakota Education Association, collected enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot for a public vote. Daugaard said lawmakers might resurrect at least some parts the plan.

At the same time, voters rejected a proposal to raise the state sales tax from 4 percent to 5 percent with half of the extra money going to school districts and half to Medicaid, which provides health care for the state's poor. The teachers union and a health care organization backed that proposal.

Daugaard said the failure of the sales tax measure and his education overhaul means voters are satisfied with the current education system.

But Sandra Waltman, communications director for the teachers' union, said voters agree education spending should be increased, but they don't believe in raising the sales tax to do it.

"The overall question we need to ask is, how are we going to recruit and retain good teachers?" Waltman said. "I think we all need to sit down and talk about what approaches will work."

Daugaard also lost on another signature proposal for a new program providing incentive grants for big construction projects to get companies to expand or move to South Dakota. The grants would have been funded with 22 percent of the receipts from the contractor's excise tax. Democrats had argued the money would be better spent on education.

David Owen, president of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he and other supporters had a hard time explaining the complicated grant program to voters. But even Democrats who referred the measure to the ballot agree the state needs some kind of incentive program, so a compromise will be sought, he said.

Owen also thought voters' rejection of some ballot measures wouldn't hurt Daugaard's clout. While they may disagree with him on some issues, they give him high marks for balancing the budget and guiding state government through the economic downturn, he said.

Owen said the question in his mind was whether people who oppose measures passed by the Legislature will continue to refer so many for statewide public votes.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. shunkaska
    Report Abuse
    shunkaska - November 08, 2012 4:11 pm
    Our Gov has lost any grasp of reality to our state needs. The teacher bonus plan has failed in every state it has been tried in..does he not read? Lets insult our teachers and try to devide them,augh they are paid 51st and produce a top 15 yr after yr. State workers are paid 44th? Are they evaluated 2-3 times a yr with the tool state wants to evaluate teachers?I have never seen a Gov get hit so hard by the people that elected him, wake up your ideas stink.I am wondering if he will make it 4 yrs...anyone passing a petition, Let Dusty Johnson have the last 2 yrs...
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