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Senator moved ballot question for 'higher threshold' on Medicaid expansion

Watertown Chamber of Commerce debate.png
Colin Paulsen and Lee Schoenbeck debate during the Watertown Chamber of Commerce candidate forum on May 3, 2022.

The leader of the South Dakota Senate says he moved one ballot question to the primary election to make Medicaid expansion more difficult.

Those comments came during a candidate debate in Watertown.

What’s now known as Constitutional Amendment C started during the 2021 legislative session.

It asks voters to raise the threshold for certain ballot questions to 60 percent—meaning a minority of voters can overrule a majority vote. Those ballot questions are ones that raise taxes or spend $10 million in general funds in the first five years.

The question was slated for the general election in November. But one lawmaker bumped it up to the June primary election.

SD Legislative Research Council
SD Legislative Research Council
Lee Schoenbeck

During a debate in Watertown this week, Republican Senator Lee Schoenbeck says he made that change for a reason.

“I put it there because I want it to be in place—if the voters approve it—for the general election that’s going to happen because we’re going to have Medicaid expansion there,” Schoenbeck says. “I don’t happen to support more welfare. I want to have a higher threshold for when we vote on that in November. That’s why it’s on the primary ballot. There’s no other reason.”

The group South Dakotans Decide Healthcare has not taken a formal position on the threshold question.

Zach Marcus is a spokesperson for South Dakotans Decide Healthcare. He says that group is focused on passing Medicaid expansion.

“This is about 42,500 South Dakotans who are working hard and can’t currently access affordable healthcare coverage. And it’s about 1.3 billion dollars of our tax dollars coming back to our state,” Marcus says. “We’re not going to let anyone or anything distract us from that goal.”

Early voting is underway for the June 7 primary election.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.