South Dakota voters hear it often. If elected to Congress, the candidate promises to go to Washington, D.C., and “fight, fight, fight for the home team.”
It’s what the electorate wants to hear and expects. One way senators and representatives can demonstrate that commitment is to funnel more federal dollars into the state.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act presents such an opportunity. The bipartisan legislation, which has 53 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, could pump as much as $16 million a year into the state to preserve and enhance wildlife habitat, which would benefit pheasants, fish and the other wildlife that are so vital to the state's economy.
The legislation, however, is getting a tepid response from Rep. Noem and Sens. Thune and Rounds, according to South Dakota News Watch.
Noem, who is running for governor, is not among the 21 Republican co-sponsors, despite the fact her campaign platform includes a section called "Preserving Pheasant Hunting" that talks about the need for habitat management "without raising taxes."
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act does not increase taxes at the national level nor require local tax increases. The proposal shifts $1.3 billion a year in federal royalties on energy and mineral extraction to the states that are required to make a 25 percent match. This means South Dakota would have $21.5 million to spend annually on one of its most important industries that has the additional benefit of enhancing the quality of life for the many outdoor enthusiasts who live here.
What's not to like about a plan like that?
Matt Morlock, the acting director of the South Dakota branch of Pheasants Forever, said the legislation would benefit the state greatly.
"More funds out there means good things for all wildlife in South Dakota," he said in the News Watch report. "What we do for other wildlife species, ducks, deer or non-game species, it's going to benefit pheasants."
He went on to say that outdoor recreation generates $1.3 billion a year in spending in the state, which indicates any investment in the outdoors pays big dividends to local businesses.
Sen. Thune, meanwhile, wants to see what other programs might be diminished before he decides if he will support the legislation. This comes after he voted earlier this year for a tax overhaul that the Congressional Budget Office has reported will raise the national debt by $1.9 trillion over the next 10 years. The federal budget for fiscal year 2019 is $4.1 trillion with $1.1 trillion allocated for discretionary spending.
Sen. Rounds makes no mention of the legislation on his official website or in any tweets he has sent recently.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act still must be approved by the House and be considered by the Senate. So, there's still time for our Congressional delegation to study the legislation and then explain their positions on it.
At this point, however, it clearly seems like a win-win scenario for the home team if it becomes law.