PIERRE | In sports, succeeding four times in 43 isn’t considered a high achievement.
“Congress has passed all its required spending bills on time only four times since the current appropriations process was created in 1974,” Dusty Johnson said recently.
“Clearly, the process in place doesn’t work and never really has,” he said.
That’s a success rate below 10 percent. Johnson wants Congress to adopt a two-year budget cycle for the 12 appropriations bills it should be passing each year.
The federal government shut down 20 times since 1976 because Congress didn’t get budgets done.
The shutdowns came during the Carter, Reagan, H.W. Bush, Clinton, Obama and Trump administrations. The exception was George W. Bush.
Johnson is a former elected member of the state Public Utilities Commission. He won re-election in 2010 but stepped aside before starting his second six-year term so he could be chief of staff for Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
In October 2014, the governor announced Johnson’s plan to resign. Johnson left on the Friday after Daugaard won re-election.
Now, Johnson seeks the Republican nomination for South Dakota’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the June 5 primary election. Daugaard supports his candidacy.
Competing for the Republican nomination are Secretary of State Shantel Krebs of Fort Pierre, a five-term legislator from the Sioux Falls area; and state Sen. Neal Tapio of Watertown, a first-term legislator.
U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem is seeking the Republican nomination for governor against state Attorney General Marty Jackley.
Johnson became director of consulting for Vantage Point Solutions in Mitchell, where he already lived. He was driving about 600 miles per week between Mitchell and Pierre.
A two-year budget cycle worked in South Dakota for decades. The Legislature approved the first annual budget in 1967.
In recent decades with South Dakota’s economy up and down, the Legislature approves a supplemental bill each legislative session adjusting the budget already in progress, while also passing a budget bill for the coming fiscal year.
State governments take different approaches to legislative sessions and budgets. North Dakota and Wyoming operate state governments on two-year budgets.
Wyoming lawmakers meet annually and allows off-year changes. North Dakota meets every two years and adopts as many as 75 budget bills.
The federal government, meanwhile, often operates on continuing resolutions that allow annual budget deadlines to be set aside, avoiding shutdowns.
“A big part of this problem is that no one realistically expects Congress to pass budget bills in election years,” Johnson said. “The fact that Congress is able to ignore key budget deadlines half the time makes it much easier for them to also ignore them the other half of the time.”
Johnson supports two-year budgets because they would offer more predictability about federal policies to the private sector.
He would seek removal of Congress members from budget committees if budgets weren’t passed on time.
“After all, it couldn’t be worse,” Johnson said.