County Commissioners take offense at legislator’s comments

Uh oh.  Someone made County Commissioners mad.

Despite arguably being the highest paid part-time elected officials…. who are also known to vote for taxpayer paid health insurance for themselves…  County Commissioners took offense when State Rep Don Haggar noted that they may be spendthrifts.

(I’m not sure if that’s in comparison to austere State Legislators who have measures in this year to raise their own salaries.)

During the regular weekly meeting, Dick Kelly, who has been a commissioner since 2009, scolded Don Haggar, a legislator in his second term, for comments Haggar made to the House of Representatives in Pierre. Kelly said Haggar owes an apology to South Dakota’s 325 county commissioners he insulted with his remarks.

Haggar compared funds given to county governments to candy and implied the more a county is given, the more it will spend. The House was debating HB 1216 at the time. That bill, which failed on the House floor 22-46, had the intent to “repeal the limitation on the total amount of revenue payable from taxes on real property for all taxing districts, except school districts.”

In his prepared remarks, Kelly said, “I don’t normally comment on statements made by other elected officials on the floor of the legislature, but remarks made on the House floor by State Rep. Don Haggar last Wednesday during debate on HB 1216 pertaining to the restriction on property taxes deserves an answer. He state the proposed amendment to 10-13-25 was tantamount (his words) to putting a jar of candy on a representative’s desk and expecting it to say full, though I can’t understand why you would put it there and not expect people to partake if they feel the need. He then went on, and I quote ‘those county officials are going to find ways to spend the money. Their appetites will rise to the level of the candy available. That’s what will happen.’

Read it here.

Basically Don illustrated his point by saying they’d gobble up all the candy, Don Kelly says “I can’t understand why you would put it there and not expect people to partake if they feel the need”  and then he grumbles because he doesn’t like the comparison.

Come on guys – can’t we all just get along?:

16 thoughts on “County Commissioners take offense at legislator’s comments”

  1. Rep. Haggar is right. The more money any level of government has, the more money it spends.

    The Minnehaha County Commission opted out to raise property taxes so they could spend more last year.

    1. To be fair to Dick Kelly, he confirms that the counties will spend all the money that comes in.

      Kelly may not like the way Haggar described county spending but the counties spend all that is available to them and sometimes more in opt outs.

  2. It is just plain human nature. If I make more, I spend more. If I make less I spend less. The key difference is the word “make”. If the government takes more it will spend more. If the government takes less, well depending upon the government it will spend less. Human nature, nothing more, nothing less.

    1. dugger, I enjoy your bumper sticker logic here, but can’t agree.

      How many bridges are you responsible for – how many miles of roads?

      How many prisoners do you have to find the money to pay for?

      How many political favors do you owe to buddies who helped get you elected?

      So while I understand the human nature stance you take, I just don’t know many humans who have these types of demands.

      Add into that the Republican principle that like sh**, fiscal responsibility flows downhill and you have a growing problem – particularly in the counties that don’t value good roads, good bridges and good education. Now, that’s human nature for you.

      1. you’re qualifying a lot of things but evading the logic of the basic statement, that when government can easily take more, it will spend more. opt-outs are hard, who can blame them?

  3. Please look carefully, the State never seems to have a problem pushing more off on local governments to fund, and the State never seems to lack the ability to hold the line on everyone else, but not on themselves. Kind of a double standard? Yet in all fairness to everyone, the population keeps wanting more or demanding more which takes money.

    1. That is the genius of South Dakota’s property tax system. If people want more services than the property tax caps allow, they can opt out of the caps. Their elected officials make the case to collect more, and there is an easy referral process if people disagree. It puts the power back in the hands of the people.

  4. If you live in a large city and own your own home you have it made in South Dakota for you only need to worry about one income tax; the Federal one. If you live in the country and are involved in Ag you need to worry about your property income tax; today conveniently called “Production Ag Property Tax”. And if you have put grass back into those plowed acres; well you are just screwed.

    1. Charlie, that looked to me like an income tax disguised as a property tax. It helped a few of those who had scenic development land that they had low production values and really hosed those who had productive land. The problem is that it didn’t take into account the massive investments it takes to make the productive land more productive.

  5. Am O; productive land needs only rain and the right rotation to make good topsoil very productive. No investment is needed other than a little N and seed and rain. What we farm up here in Sand Land under three inches of topsoil requires management and much help from God above in the form of consistent rain to grow a crop. Put that into a context of 90 to 110 frost free days and you can see the culpability of profit based on soil types being offensive.

    1. I agree completely, but want to add in that spending a million or two or three on equipment and storage is far more expensive that what the leader of the tax movement – Jim Lintz – and most ranchers have for capital investments and expenses. Commodity prices go up and so do seeds, fertilizer and all the other expenses associated with producing those commodities. It’s Ricardo’s Iron Law of Corn in action.

  6. Am O I’ll share with you and the readers here what my fathers last thought told to my mother for me was before he died back in 1980. He said; ” The prairie will make you more money in the long term growing grass then it will grain so concentrate on raising cattle and hay with the least effort applied to grain farming.” On our sandy gravel based soil we would do well to start a gravel mine, but short of that cows and grass are King! The Ag property tax today in SD unjustly enriches everyone but those of us who base our operations on a forage based existence.

  7. First, I think Representative Haggar’s analogy certainly wasn’t intended as a compliment. And think he could have made his case more effectively without being pejorative of County Commissioners

    Second, I think Commissioner Kelly’s response was thin-skinned and almost seemed like he thinks himself both a victim yet entitled to the candy. He unintentionally gave credence to Haggar’s analogy.

    In my opinion, if our county commissioners can’t make the case for an opt out, live with it. If the need is there, why shouldn’t the voters be trusted to see the wisdom. Are County Commissioners really that much smarter than us and we can’t see what is in our best interest?

    Bottom line: Haggar’s position is correct. Kelly wants to raise our property tax, make your case.

  8. County Commissioners have a pretty thin skin when it comes to talking about their compensation. In almost every county in SD, the city councils and school boards oversee a much larger budget than the county, but for some reason the commissioners always get paid way more. How did we get there??

  9. For real fun, seek out and speak with some of your elected county officials (not the commissioners, but the Auditor, Treasurer, Register of Deeds, Sheriff or State’s Attorney)…you may be shocked to find how many have tales of commissioners treating these individuals as their employees and attempting to micro-manage their offices by way of their role as commissioner are out there. I’m not saying this happens everywhere all the time, but it happens more often than most would expect.

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