Here’s the thing for the governor these days.
When you appoint a special “blue ribbon” commission that spends months working on ideas regarding teacher availability, teacher shortages and teacher pay, you create an expectation of action.
When the commission’s work is done before the state budget speech, there is an expectation the plan might be part of the state budget recommendations. When you say instead in the budget speech that you’ll show your plan in the State of the State speech set for one month later, you fuel the expectation.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard delivered on those expectations in his State of the State speech. But then came a gap that is growing longer every day. It’s now day 10 of the 38-workday session. He hasn’t filed the legislation for the complicated plan.
There’s much, much more involved than just increasing the state sales tax by one-half cent and spending the money on teacher pay, some additional programs and property-tax relief. He also wants school reserves and capital outlay taxes addressed, and he wants all sources of revenue considered in measuring a school district’s local effort.
Any one of those topics would be a big deal, especially for the many legislators who haven’t worked much on school finance issues. There is a hunger among legislators for details that will be available only in legislation they can study line by line.
There’s a tradition in recent decades of governors holding back on the legislation for their big plans. Fair enough.
But hungry people sometimes don’t care who satisfies their need. And we’re starting to see some of that in recent days as lawmakers such as Sen. Ried Holien, R-Watertown, and House Republican leader Brian Gosch of Rapid City call out the governor for not yet delivering his legislation.
Gosch, who doesn’t want the governor’s plan, said he’ll be working on a plan with a few other legislators opposed to the governor’s plan.
Whether Gosch commands the minimum of 24 nays needed to block a two-thirds majority in the House won’t be publicly known until there is an actual roll call on the governor’s plan.
But by getting together a plan of his own, Gosch will be offering a refuge for those legislators in both chambers who are unsure about Daugaard’s plan.
The keys will be how much money would be involved in the Gosch plan and its proposed sources.
The sales-tax exemptions list could be a likely place where lawmakers look. Each exemption comes with its own constituency. None of any size would be easily taken away.
But taking away an exemption requires only a majority vote while a sales tax increase needs a two-thirds majority.
We are in for a long, difficult round of negotiations that will run into March.
The negotiations won’t be among leaders such as Daugaard and Gosch, however. The negotiations will be one at a time between each of two rival leaders and each of the Republican legislators.
This will come down to how each legislator answers whether South Dakota should change and how. Those answers will tell the citizens of South Dakota what they can expect for their state’s future.