Michael Larson properly spotlights the mediocrity epitomized on Senate Majority Leader Tim Rave’s closing comments in the Senate’s debate of HB 1208, the general appropriations bill, passed late Friday evening:
I’ve been here thirteen sessions, and never have we had a budget that does enough, and that’s o.k., because that’s why we’re elected to come back next year, and the next year, and the next year. That’s our job. We’re here to take care of the taxpayers and the citizens of this state. That’s why they send us out here. Every year we do something to make this state just a little bit better than the year before [Senator Tim Rave (R-25/Baltic), remarks on HB 1208, South Dakota Senate, 2015.03.13, timestamp 2:37:00].
The Legislature’s budget does just a little bit to improve South Dakota, but not enough.
I am reminded of shoveling snow with my dad. On one of my first outings with him, when I was old enough to handle the shovel while he ran the snowblower on the big driveways, I cleared one shovel-width path down the sidewalk and called it good. I thought I’d improved things a little. Dad was not impressed. For Dad, “enough” wasn’t “just a little bit better.” “Enough” meant doing the whole job. And we didn’t go back to our nice warm house until I’d done the whole job and shoveled the whole sidewalk, edge to edge, alley to curb.
The Legislature did not do the whole job. The Legislature did not raise teacher pay $10,000 to compete with neighboring states; it left in place the status quo that will underpay teachers and worsen our teacher shortage. The Legislature did not tackle $240 million in road repair needs; it came up with a plan that addresses just over a third of those needs. The Legislature did not expand Medicaid to save lives and money; on that issue, legislators didn’t even shovel my single path.
When I shoveled my single, sloppy path to make the sidewalk “just a little bit better,” Dad didn’t say, “That’s o.k., we’ll come back next weekend, and the next.” He said I needed to do the job right and right now, because if I didn’t, we wouldn’t get hired back.
My dad still moves snow, although he’s moved up from a snowblower to a skid-steer. Senator Rave, you should come shovel snow with my dad.