South Dakota Politics Heats Up Days Before The Election

Nov 3, 2016

Lance Russel signs a pledge to vote against raising taxes
Credit Lee Strubinger / SDPB

With days left before the election, various political parties and factions are vying to get their message out.

Front and center are the issue of tax increases and government accountability.

Lance Russel signs a pledge against tax increases next to the Ronald Reagan statue in Downtown Rapid City Thursday afternoon. Seven legislative candidates aligned with the group South Dakota Citizens for Liberty signed the pledge to abstain from increasing taxes during Governor Dennis Daugaard’s administration.  

Russel is an incumbent state senator in District 30. He believes the state faces a large budget shortfall going into the next legislative session.

“My fear is that it could be upwards of $30 million," Russel says. "What was stated by the governor’s office was is that we would have to have a 20 percent increase in the amount of sales tax being collected for the rest of the year just to balance the budget—this year’s budget. So, we’re going to start out behind next year. My fear is that the governor has taken on some ambitious programs in the last few years and that he’s not going to want to curtail. My fear is is the governor is going to be offering a tax increase.”

Russel says the governor’s office has raised taxes substantially in the last two years.   But a spokesperson with the governor’s office says the numbers Russel is using are unfounded.  Tony Venhuizen says none of the candidates at the event have spoken with the governor’s office about a budget shortfall.

“The governor’s history clearly shows that when he was confronted with a deficit his first year in office he balanced the budget—not through a tax increase but through cuts—and each year thereafter proposed and passed a balanced budget," Venhuizen says. "The only time new taxes were considered was when it was to add new spending in a particular area, not to balance the existing budget. The council of economic advisors has said we should expect slow growth over the next year. So, that will be what the governor considers as he prepares his budget for next year.”

Venhuizen says the state is not in a situation where they have to make cuts like were done in 2011. The governor’s budget address is set for December 6.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Sioux Falls are calling for an end to what they call one party rule in South Dakota.  They say more Democrats are needed serve as watchdogs on the Republican Party.  The GOP currently holds an 80 percent majority in the legislature.