Hospitals put almost $900,000 into tax-increase campaign

Here’s the source for a big chunk of the money paying for the advertising blitz in favor of Initiated Measure 15, which would increase South Dakota’s sales tax on most items to 5 percent, from the current 4 percent, with the proceeds to be split between K-12 school districts and Medicaid funding. The campaign money is coming largely from the Big Three of healthcare in South Dakota — Avera, Sanford and Rapid City Regional — along with a handful of smaller centers. According to pre-election campaign finance filings, together they’ve donated more than $888,000 to a committee called Healthy Communities that in turn donated the money to Moving South Dakota Forward, the main committee promoting the tax increase. In rough numbers, each of the Big Three contributed in the neighborhood of $300,000 apiece.

Moving South Dakota Forward also received $200,000 from the National Education Association, according to its report, as well as what appearst to be a total of $10,000 in donations from the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations. Moving South Dakota Forward, which was formed by the South Dakota Education Association and SDAHO, reported spending $970,462.79 so far and had $145,977.88 cash on hand at the reporting deadline.

Then there is the token opposition. The No on 15 committee, which wasn’t officially organized until early October, reported spending $15,885.09 and had $25,374.91 cash on hand. The biggest contributors to the No on 15 effort were Harvey Jewett of Aberdeen, who gave $10,000, and Dusty Johnson’s old PUC campaign committee, which donated $3,000.

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About Bob Mercer

Bob Mercer is a newspaper reporter in Pierre where I cover state government, issues and politics for the Aberdeen American News and four other separately owned newspapers: the Black Hills Pioneer, the Pierre Capital Journal, the Mitchell Daily Republic and the Watertown Public Opinion. I began covering the Legislature in 1985 and have lived in Pierre since December 1986. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked my way through college, took my first full-time newspapers jobs in Wyoming, and have lived in South Dakota since the summer of 1984 when I moved to Aberdeen to join the American News. I worked for the Rapid City Journal as its state government reporter in Pierre from late 1992 through late 1998. I spent four years as press secretary and a senior aide to Gov. Bill Janklow during his fourth and final term from late 1998 through 2002. I returned to journalism in January 2003 as a self-employed reporter, providing state government coverage to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre and, depending on the year, Aberdeen newspapers. In 2008, the Aberdeen American News offered to hire me as full-time member of the AAN staff, with my reports continuing to be available to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish and Pierre papers. The new arrangement has been in effect since January 2009 as the five papers continue their remarkable dedication to their readers and the general public, as the only South Dakota news outlets with a full-time reporter covering state government in Pierre throughout the year. In addition to focusing on the Legislature during the annual winter session and its various activities during the interim periods between sessions, I spend many days throughout the year -- traveling as often necessary -- to cover state government boards and commissions which oversee the state universities, technical institutes, outdoors, water, environment, business, public schools, banking, agriculture, utilities, health care and various other areas of public interest. I purposely don't register to vote because of my profession; the last time I recall voting in a presidential election was the first time, 1976, when I had just turned 18. I think I voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford. Make of that what you want, just don't make much of it.

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