Now that the decisions made in Pierre during the last legislative session are coursing through our communities, the consequences of Gov. Daugaard’s extreme budget cuts are starting to show. According to a new survey by the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, 465 full-time jobs across South Dakota were lost to fulfill Republican demands to balance the budget on the backs of our children.
It’s a devastating outcome for communities across South Dakota that trusted Gov. Daugaard’s promise to “put people back to work and grow our way into the future.” Indeed, as a first turn of business, Gov. Daugaard set our communities back by nearly 500 direct jobs and countless more lost as these teachers, student aides, and administrators no longer have money to spend supporting other jobs in the community.
The recently unemployed are not the only folks paying for Daugaard’s approach to jobs creation. Communities across our state have been forced to raise local property taxes, eliminate extracurricular programs in our schools, and dip into reserves and capital outlay funds just to keep up with on-going growth.
As a recent report shows, our children’s education levels sliding compared to the rest of the country, our technical schools and institutions of higher education are being forced to jack up tuition another 8 percent just to make up for state budget cuts.
It’s no wonder that South Dakota business leaders held a workforce summit in Mitchell last week to share their growing frustration concerning their inability to fill over 2,000 expected job openings in the James River Basin alone.
Why can’t our South Dakota business fill those jobs? Our workforce needs better education and training, they say. It’s a fact business leaders are grappling with across South Dakota as their growth depends on a modern system of education that Gov. Daugaard and Republican legislators continue to undermine.
Indeed, instead of offering a plan to improve workforce training, strengthen our educational systems, and extend our technical schools’ outreach, Gov. Daugaard championed as his chief economic development policy a plan to give $16 million a year in taxpayer funded giveaways to large out-of-state corporations. Who pays for those $16 million in taxpayer-funded corporate giveaways? Every South Dakota contractor, small business owner, or taxpayer who invests in their business or remodels their home right here in South Dakota.
There’s something terribly wrong with Daugaard’s plans to subsidize large out-of-state corporate competitors at the expense of South Dakota businesses. They require a strong system of education that equips South Dakota workers with the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century economy.
South Dakota business can create jobs, and they are proving it every day. It’s time Gov. Daugaard give up his plan to give away taxpayer dollars to large out-of-state corporations and start investing in South Dakota first.
Ben Nesselhuf, of Vermillion, is chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party.