Budget cuts take their toll on students


Editorial Board

Issue: Gov. Mike Rounds proposed a new set of budget cuts on Jan. 23 to combat a monetary shortfall in our state government funding. The anticipated reduction will amount to $58.7 million – with 45 percent of that coming from education.

During his first budget address, Rounds painted an optimistic, yet cautious picture of our state’s budget. Unfortunately, the situation has changed. Less than a week ago, Rounds announced an updated batch of budget cuts to help cure our state’s monetary ailments. It seems South Dakota faces the same recession as the rest of the country after all. While the blame falls on no one in Pierre, the next years will be crucial for our state to stay ahead of the curve.

Both the State Employee Compensation and Teacher Compensation Assistance Program will essentially shut down as a result these proposed budget cuts. State employees and teachers need the compensation for our state to stay competitive. We already feature some of the lowest teacher salaries in the country. Do we need another reason for teachers to not come to our state?

One area left untouched is our tourism industry. While the amount of money we make from sightseers is substantial, we need to watch out for our own. Industries like agriculture need to be nurtured. With $1 million less, the Cooperative Extension Office will cut back on education on technique and other information important for farmers to remain ahead in their industry.

In tough times, the increase of taxes is always a slippery slope. Take too much from the average citizen and they suffer economically. Likewise, without that funding, state programs that help people are sacrificed. In South Dakota, a large portion of revenue comes from our sales tax. In Washington, D.C., the debate continues about allowing an Internet tax. All three of our representatives – Sen. Thune and Johnson and Rep. Herseth-Sandlin – are co-sponsors of Legislation to allow states to use remote sales (consumer sales with a company that does not operate in their home state) for tax revenue. We applaud our delegation for supporting this bill. A law like this can help bolster our lagging state revenue.

Stance: Higher education is an investment. Along with students, placing the budget on state employees’ backs is not prudent. When new opportunities like an Internet tax present itself, we need to use them to the best of our ability.