US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Broken Budget System Wastes Taxpayer Dollars, Hurts Military

Broken Budget System Wastes Taxpayer Dollars, Hurts Military
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

The federal government’s budget process hasn’t worked in more than four decades. I have been a vocal critic of the current system, which largely rubber-stamps federal spending with very little debate or discussion. I recently voted “no” on a continuing resolution, which funds the government for two weeks, through December 22, 2017. This is not a decision I take lightly, and I’d like to take this opportunity to explain what led me to this decision.

This year, working within this broken system, we gave negotiators extra time to work out a compromise on spending. Rather than getting to work on a compromise package during that period, a day before the extended deadline of Dec. 8, Congress was forced to vote on another extension because no progress had been made in the nearly three months when the original deadline was extended. This new deadline comes just before the holidays, hoping it will add pressure for Members to accept conditions they may otherwise disagree with. This is not a good policy.

A number of us have worked on proposals to modify our current budget ‘process’ – a term I use loosely – so that we can actually do the work we were sent here to do: make informed policy decisions and make certain the federal government is being a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars. Yet Congress continues this pattern of passing short-term, stopgap spending bills.

I cannot, in good conscience, lend my support to this continuing resolution that merely continues federal spending and whose lone policy change could actually end up hurting South Dakota families. If we are ever to get our spending under control, eliminate wasteful programs and provide much-needed stability for our military, we must reject the status quo.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am concerned about the impact continuing resolutions have on military readiness. Military leaders have repeatedly warned our committee of the dangers that these short-term, stopgap spending bills have on their ability to adequately train, equip and maintain the force.

In particular, under continuing resolutions, the Defense Department is restricted from starting new programs, which is deeply concerning in today’s rapidly-changing threat environment. One example is the mounting cyber threat to our armed forces and our civilian critical infrastructure. If we are to adequately recover readiness levels that were lost over the last eight years, as well as modernize our armed forces in this increasingly dangerous and complex world, we must give them the funding stability and certainty that continuing resolutions fail to provide.

The federal government has an obligation to the American people to be good stewards of their hard-earned dollars. We simply cannot continue to allow spending to run on auto-pilot, without a genuine opportunity for Congress to manage and debate the merits of individual programs. This practice will not change until more of us send the message that we must either repair this broken system or we get our work done on time. The American people expect no less.

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Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Our Way of Life

Our Way of Life
By Rep. Kristi Noem  

Our Constitution makes it clear: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” For much of American history, that point was understood.

Maybe that’s why the right to bear arms is one of the least debated constitutional amendments in Supreme Court history. In fact, the landmark 2008 Heller decision was the first time in 50-plus years that the Court weighed in on the Second Amendment and examples of cases before 1939 are few and far between.

I believe that’s because for most of American history, firearms were integral to the way we lived. People understood how to use them and taught their children how to as well. In South Dakota, that way of life still exists. I’m really proud of that, and I will always fight to protect it.

This December, the House passed legislation to further secure our Second Amendment rights. More specifically, the package included the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which I cosponsored. If this legislation is signed into law, those permitted to carry a concealed handgun will be able to bring it to other states that permit concealed carry. We have a similar reciprocity agreement on the books in South Dakota that lets non-residents carry in the state, but I believe that right should be protected nationwide.

This was the second major bill I’ve helped pass to protect the Second Amendment this year. Under President Obama, the Social Security Administration had overstepped its mission and discriminated against certain Americans with disabilities. More specifically, federal bureaucrats barred some Social Security beneficiaries who don’t manage their own finances from purchasing guns. I cosponsored legislation reversing this decision, which Congress passed and President Trump signed into law this February.

The Second Amendment is as important and relevant today as it was when the Founding Fathers wrote it into our Constitution more than 250 years ago.

I live just down the road from Kones Korner in Castlewood. It started as a gas station in the 1920s, but over the years the owner turned his gun hobby into an extension of the business. He now carries an inventory of more than 2,500 guns. He’s built a livelihood around the way we live in South Dakota, around the Second Amendment. And he isn’t the only one.

Hunting is a huge contributor to our state’s economy. In 2016, hunters spent $683 million in the state, supporting thousands of jobs and creating countless opportunities for folks to thrive in South Dakota. I know when our kids were little we started a hunting lodge, which I managed for a number of years. It was rewarding work that helped us make ends meet when yields were down.

I am proud of the way we live in South Dakota – of our hobbies and our traditions. Many of us grew up with a shotgun in the pickup, learning gun safety from a young age. We celebrate the liberties and freedoms we’re entitled to under the Second Amendment – constitutionally protected liberties and freedoms that should not be infringed upon.

Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Confronting the Realities of Another Lean Year

Confronting the Realities of Another Lean Year
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard: 

The Capitol Building was a busy place on Dec. 5 when lawmakers came to town for the annual Budget Address. They packed the state House early that afternoon to hear about our current economic situation and my proposal for the upcoming budget year.

With revenue trending below projections, I doubt legislators were surprised when I explained we face another lean year. The projected tax revenue for this budget year will leave us $20 million short. To compound that, we have 450 more students enrolled in our schools than anticipated. This is a good problem. Higher student enrollment means our state is growing. But it’s a problem that adds another $10 million to the gap for this fiscal year.

The revenue shortfall and enrollment growth must be combined with emergency costs that will need to be covered. Unaddressed, this would leave us $34 million in the red this year. We need to fill that hole to balance in fiscal year 2018, and then adopt a balanced budget for the 2019 fiscal year.

I am proposing we fill the current year gap by reducing expenses where we are able, and using one-time cash sources, including funds from our reserves. This would still leave our reserves at a healthy level of 10 percent of our general fund spending.

For the upcoming fiscal year, I cannot recommend inflationary increases for education, Medicaid providers or state employees. Inflationary increases would cost about $58 million and we have only $32 million in new recurring revenue.

Still, although we cannot afford inflationary increases, I am proposing we dedicate the majority of new recurring revenue to those three priority areas. I am recommending the largest funding increase go to K-12 education to cover next year’s higher enrollment.

Second, I propose we complete a plan, begun two years ago, to better reimburse community-based Medicaid providers for actual costs. This will allow us to keep our promise to those who serve the most vulnerable in our state.

And for state employees, I am recommending a very modest amount to keep some employee pay, which is already lower than market, from falling even further behind.

Although the situation is not ideal, we must remember that our state has been through tougher times. It was just seven years ago that we were facing major shortfalls because of the recession and had to balance the budget with across-the-board cuts. Our situation is not as dire today and I am not calling for cuts.

Also, this experience is not unique to South Dakota. Many governors and legislatures across the country are seeing soft revenues. Recently, Montana and Oklahoma have had to call special sessions to address budget shortfalls.  Moreover, others have not been willing to confront their fiscal reality. According to Moody’s, nearly a dozen states began their fiscal year without a budget in place.

In South Dakota, we have been willing to make the difficult decisions and that has put us in an enviable position. We have structural balance, a healthy level of reserves, AAA status with all three credit rating agencies and one of the strongest pension plans in the nation. I’m very proud of these achievements. They reflect the discipline and maturity that South Dakotans expect of their elected officials. We should never take that for granted.

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South Dakota Dems run essay contest on ethics, where they’re going to “use any or all of the ideas submitted without attribution or compensation”

A reader sent me this flyer and the accompanying letter which was sent out to public schools this fall where Democrats are using the opportunity to paint a false impression, as well as admit they plan on stealing the ideas of high school kids:

Democrats are trying to press a message that South Dakota State Government is somehow corrupt because we don’t have certain programs that Liberal think-tanks demand for good ratings in their studies, as they conveniently overlook the fact that a Harvard study has ranked South Dakota as among the least corrupt of states.

And they’re also overlooking the fact that Initiated Measure 22 was blocked by a judge on the basis that it was unconstitutional, and it was a bipartisan effort to replace the flawed IM22 measure with one that would survive a court challenge.

But the best part?  As it solicits essays, Democrats disclaim that one of their two objectives expressly notes that “A note in the online instructions will point out that South Dakota Legislators may use any or all of the ideas submitted without attribution or compensation.

So… they’re telling high school kids up front that they’ll plagiarize any and all of their ideas, if they think there’s something good in there.

Quite the lesson they’re trying to teach.  So much for improving ethics.

Thune Introduces Bill to Reauthorize Critical Drought Information Program

Thune Introduces Bill to Reauthorize Critical Drought Information Program

“This updated legislation improves current law while complementing the subseasonal provisions of my weather bill that was enacted earlier this year, keeping South Dakotans better informed and prepared to handle potential droughts.”

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, this week introduced legislation (S. 2200) to reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), which provides vital drought information to farmers, ranchers, and other industries affected by severe weather conditions. This legislation would encourage important partnerships with the private sector, integrate seasonal and subseasonal drought and water forecasts, and support ongoing soil moisture monitoring to better aid farmers.

“As South Dakota farmers and ranchers recover from devastating drought conditions, it’s important that Congress stays on the ball when it comes to updating critical drought tools like NIDIS,” said Thune. “This updated legislation improves current law while complementing the subseasonal provisions of my weather bill that was enacted earlier this year, keeping South Dakotans better informed and prepared to handle potential droughts.”

NIDIS was established by Congress in 2006 with an interagency mandate to coordinate and integrate drought research and create a national drought early warning system. The early warning system utilizes new and existing partner networks to optimize the expertise of a wide range of federal, tribal, state, local, and academic partners in order to make climate and drought science readily available, easily understandable, and usable for decision makers. It would also improve the capacity of stakeholders to better monitor, forecast, plan for, and cope with the impacts of drought. The NIDIS program is a function of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, of which the Commerce Committee has jurisdiction.

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Rounds Opposes Continuing Resolution

Rounds Opposes Continuing Resolution

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) issued the following statement after voting no on the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government through December 22, 2017:

“The federal government’s budget process hasn’t worked in more than four decades. I have been a vocal critic of the current system, which largely rubber-stamps federal spending with very little debate or discussion. This year, working within this broken system, we gave negotiators extra time to work out a compromise on spending. Now we are one day from their extended deadline and yet no closer to a deal than they were three months ago. So they are asking for more time to negotiate, with a new deadline just before the holidays, hoping it will add pressure for Members to accept conditions they may otherwise disagree with. This is not good policy.

“A number of us have worked on proposals to modify our current budget ‘process’ – a term I use loosely – so that we can actually do the work we were sent here to do: make informed policy decisions and make certain the federal government is being a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars. Yet Congress continues this pattern of passing short-term, stopgap spending bills.

“I cannot, in good conscience, lend my support to this continuing resolution that merely continues federal spending and whose lone policy change could actually end up hurting South Dakota families. If we are ever to get our spending under control, eliminate wasteful programs and provide much-needed stability for our military, we must reject the status quo.

“This practice will not change until more of us send the message that we must either repair this broken system or we get our work done on time. The American people expect no less.

“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am concerned about the impact continuing resolutions have on military readiness. Military leaders have repeatedly warned our committee of the dangers that these short-term, stopgap spending bills have on their ability to adequately train, equip and maintain the force. In particular, under continuing resolutions, the Defense Department is restricted from starting new programs which is deeply concerning in today’s rapidly-changing threat environment. An example is the mounting cyber threat to our armed forces and our civilian critical infrastructure. If we are to adequately recover readiness levels that were lost over the last eight years as well as modernize our armed forces in this increasingly dangerous and complex world, we must give them the funding stability and certainty that continuing resolutions fail to provide.”

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New Video: Noem fights for the 2nd Amendment

NEW VIDEO: NOEM FIGHTS FOR THE 2ND AMENDMENT

Sioux Falls, S.D. – Rep. Kristi Noem today launched an online video campaign highlighting her lifelong defense of the Second Amendment. An avid hunter and sportsman, Noem once owned and operated a hunting lodge near her home in northeast South Dakota. She has been a stalwart defender of the Second Amendment, fighting against Obama-era regulations that limited gun rights and strongly supporting policies such as national right-to-carry reciprocity, which passed the House of Representatives this week. Noem has an ‘A’ rating from the National Rifle Association and is a lifetime member of the organization.

“I grew up in a family that always had a shotgun in the pickup,” Noem explains in the video. “Our kids need to grow up recognizing the Second Amendment is a statement on what the government’s role in our lives should and should not be. This right to bear arms gives us an opportunity to talk to our kids about the values that our country was founded on.”

Councilor Kiley’s response to Councilor Starr’s Request for Apology

Earlier today, the Argus Leader had an article about Sioux Falls City Council member Pat Starr who got up and walked out of last night’s meeting and abstained from the vote on the newly approved City of Sioux Falls mixed-use parking structure as part of a political protest over how the debate.

I’m not sure how leaving ever accomplishes anything, but that’s what happened.

This afternoon, City Council Chairman Rick Kiley sent out a statement in regards to Starr’s press release sent out to the media about the incident demanding apologies:

Councilor Kiley’s response to Councilor Starr’s Request for Apology

“Councilor Starr requesting an apology is really just a concerted effort by him to deflect responsibility for this public spectacle, and failing to uphold a Councilor’s basic responsibility to represent his/her constituents by voting yes or no on challenging issues.”

“It is unfortunate that Councilor Starr elected to leave the Chambers last evening.  Once he left Chambers he was no longer in a position to represent the citizens that elected him to represent them and to make the hard decisions required of a Council member.”

“Councilor Starr could have appealed the Mayor’s decision by making a motion to override the chair which he has successfully done in the past. Why he decided to avoid voting instead is beyond me.”

“I want to emphasize that public input was taken on all six of the remaining items associated with the mixed use parking ramp project.  It is unfortunate that Councilor Starr was absent for this additional public input.”

“It is a dangerous precedent to not make the hard vote.  It is my hope Councilor Starr will elect to exercise a greater degree of professionalism in the future.”

Thune – “Restoring America’s Place in the World”

VIDEO: “Restoring America’s Place in the World”

“America led the world in the 20th century, and this tax bill makes it clear that she is going to do the same in the 21st century.”

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the tax-writing Finance Committee, today released a video entitled, “Restoring America’s Place in the World,” which highlights the Senate’s tax reform plan that passed on December 2. The video features portions of Thune’s speech that he delivered just hours before the tax reform bill passed the Senate and clips from throughout the year of Thune visiting with South Dakotans.

“America has always been about opportunity,” said Thune. “A place where you can start from nothing and become anything. This bill is about helping Americans for the long term. It’s about restoring the American Dream. It’s about giving Americans access to the kinds of wages, jobs, and opportunities that will set them up for a secure and a more prosperous future. And it’s about sending a message to the world that America is finally serious about competing for 21st century jobs and innovation.

“For years our tax laws have kept American businesses at a disadvantage in the global economy. That ends now. Instead, American businesses will have money to invest in American workers. They will be able to expand their domestic operations. And what’s the result of that? More growth here at home, more jobs, and more opportunities, and an America that can lead the world, innovation, job creation, and economic growth. 

“America may have been through a rough patch lately, but she is coming back stronger than ever. America led the world in the 20th century, and this tax bill makes it clear that she is going to do the same in the 21st century.  

“I’m reminded of Ronald Reagan’s presidential ad quoting that it was morning in America again. It may not be morning yet, but the dawn is peaking over the horizon.”

To learn more about Thune’s work on tax reform, please visit the tax reform section on www.thune.senate.gov.

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Rounds Delivers Opening Statement at EPW Subcommittee Hearing on Natural Disaster Clean Ups

Rounds Delivers Opening Statement at EPW Subcommittee Hearing on Natural Disaster Clean Ups

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight, today delivered his opening statement at a hearing entitled “Challenges Facing Superfund and Waste Cleanup Efforts Following Natural Disasters.”

“Today this subcommittee will conduct a review of the response, remediation and recovery challenges faced by states and public officials tasked with securing superfund sites and managing waste debris in the aftermath of these natural disasters,” said Rounds in his opening remarks. “Our goal today is to conduct oversight on the agency coordination among federal, state, and local officials following these destructive events. We will also hear about the preparations that were made to secure superfund sites in advance of these natural disasters occurring, and hear suggestions on how the planning and preparation for natural disasters can be improved.”