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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Through its budget South Dakota defines itself

Times of financial crisis provide opportunities for those in power to prosecute their personal hatreds and agendas. In providing the billions and billions of dollars to the financial and automobile industries, the government has mildly remonstrated the executives for their gross incompetence, their profligacy, and their criminal greed. But the company executives have fallen back into their status of the privileged class, taken the money, and then continued to spend it for their benefit, ignoring the plights of the many people who their schemes have brought to ruin. Mortgages are not being modified to help people stay in their homes and find ways to discharge their mortgages at a lesser but still profitable rate. Instead, the executive class has connived ways to use the money for continued bonuses and luxuries.

At the same time, the loans given to the automobile manufacturers were tied to provisions to nullify the collective bargaining agreements and to effectively break the unions. While it is permissible among those who identify with the managing class to subsidize the incompetence, greed, and criminal schemes of the managing class, it is a matter of outrage to them that some factory workers make more than subsistence wages and have health care benefits. The Republicans who put in the anti-worker stipulations are incensed that some American workers have bargained for wages of a higher scale than their competitors in China. The Republicans in the Senate led by Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee have cast the working class as the economic enemy, and the old fascist attitudes of tlhe 1930s have been revived and are being enforced, as the financial crisis has given them opportunity. Corker started a battle that has renewed class warfare.

In South Dakota, the budget cuts proposed by Gov. Rounds also reflect the cultural values of those who conceive of themselves as the state's managing class. The first rule is to go after the workers. State workers, whose wages have lagged behind comparable wages in other states, will not get a raise. That might be something the workers are willing to endure as part of meeting the budget shortfalls, but it is also clear that they are of much less than equal status and worth compared to other sectors covered by the budget. One cannot dismiss the class warfare involved in this proposed cut.

The next significant sectors to take the brunt of the cuts are the cultural enterprises and education. These cuts can be seen as practical measures, but also effectively eliminate or curtail programs while others receive budget increases. Rather than make general cuts across the board, those areas of cultural and intellectual industry that so irk the anti-intellectual segment in the state will suffer.

The plan to close down the South Dakota Arts Council by withdrawing all its funding is much more than a simple cost-saving device. It casts the arts, which some people find essential to their mental survival, as needless luxuries. At the same time, leisure-time activities such as hunting and fishing are scheduled to receive full support. The burgeoning prison system is slated for some cuts in the education and care of inmates, but the system itself is left intact. If the crisis is so dire, the sentences of non-violent offenders whose crimes have been against temselves could be commuted and some prison facilities closed and consolidated. Instead, the arts and education are targeted for the preponderance of cuts. The final choices in revising the budget will define the state.

When South Dakota some years back made a proposal to be the site for the Super-Conductor Super-Collider, the panel that reviewed the applications rejected South Dakota's on the grounds that the state could not provide the cultural and educational opportunities that research personnel and their families required of an intellectual-based community. The same factor has been raised with designating the Homestake Mine as the nation's Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory. Still, workers, education, and the arts are the main targets in the Governor's proposed budget cuts. Here are the 39 areas targeted:

  • · State employee salary improvements - $6.7 million.
  • · Community service providers raises - $5.5 million.
  • · TCAP teacher pay bonuses - $4 million.
  • · Building repair and maintenance - $2.45 million.
  • · Sales tax refunds on food - $2.35 million.
  • · Regional school service agencies - $2.2 million.
  • · Birth to Three child therapy - $2.1 million.
  • · Closing School for the Deaf - $2 million.
  • · University maintenance and repair - $1.6 million.
  • · Withdrawing special education increase - $1.6 million.
  • · Career and technical education - $1.5 million.
  • · Medicaid dental services for adults - $1.5 million.
  • · Cooperative Extension Service - $1 million.
  • · Catastrophic health care for inmates - $800,000.
  • · Department of Human Services cuts - $800,000.
  • · Eliminate state funding for State Fair - $775,000.
  • · Children's Health Insurance Program cuts - $753,000.
  • · Closing Division of Arts - $669,000.
  • · Adult Medicaid case-management cuts - $647,000.
  • · University system cuts - $500,000.
  • · Alternative education programming - $450,000.
  • · Nursing home client cost-share cuts - $430,000.
  • · Independent living rehabilitation services cuts - $378,000.
  • · State technology aid increase dropped - $309,000.
  • · Community mosquito control grants - $300,000.
  • · Closing archeological research center - $309,000.
  • · HPV vaccination cuts - $277,000.
  • · Public broadcasting tower maintenance - $230,000.
  • · Environmental funding shift to EPA - $230,000.
  • · Independent living services cuts - $222,000.
  • · Planned expansion of university system accounting staff - $213,000.
  • · Inmates adult-education cuts - $211,000.
  • · Inmates community-transition aid - $201,000.
  • · Inmates extra milk - $200,000.
  • · Data center staff for new high-speed Internet for universities - $155,000.
  • · Other education cuts - $341,000.
  • · Other public-assistance cuts - $991,000.
  • · Other protecting-public cuts - $548,000.
  • · Various other cuts - $617,000.
The revised budget proposal for 2010 shows some areas still receiving increases. Below are the departments with their actual expenditures for 2008 and their revised budget allowances for 2010 under the Governor's plan. The figures are in millions of dollars.

  • Executiive Management: 2008, $105; 2010, $122.
  • Revenue and Regulation: 2008, $66; 2010, $71.
  • Agriculture: 2008, $28; 2010, $36.
  • Tourism: 2008, $45; 2010, $68.
  • Game, Fish & Parks: 2008, $66; 2010, $70.
  • Social Services: 2008, $740; 2010, $830.
  • Health: 2008, $63; 2010, $74.
  • Labor: 2008, $31; 2010, $42.
  • Transportation: 2008, $400; 2010, $493.
  • Education: 2008, $543; 2010, $591.
  • Safety: 2008, $49; 2010, $51.
  • Regents: 2008, $544; 2010, $628.
  • Military & Veterans: 2008, $23; 2010, $31.
  • Corrections: 2008, $98; 2010, $106.
  • Human Services: 2008, $226; 2010, $247.
  • Environment & Natural Resources: 2008, $15; 2010, $18.
  • Judicial System: 2008, $37; 2010, $42.
The Governor has presented his revisions. His recommended cuts undeniably target culture, education, workers, and the disadvantaged. There is clearly latitude in the total budget to spread the cuts over a much wider range of state-supported activities.

Whatever budget the State ends up with, it will define its values and its priorities, and give people specific evidence for whether it is a place they want to live and support.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States