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Daugaard Defends Youth Minimum Wage in Constituent Letter

Governor Dennis Daugaard writes veto letters explaining why he rejects a handful of bills from the Legislature, but he usually doesn’t provide signing letters telling why he supports the vast majority of bills the Legislature lays on his desk.

An eager reader has obtained a signing letter from the Governor on Senate Bill 177, the youth minimum wage.

Governor Dennis Daugaard, letter, 2015.03.31
Governor Dennis Daugaard, letter, 2015.03.31

Let’s go line by line on the central paragraph:

After much consideration, I decided to sign Senate Bill 177 into law. In order to be successful later in life, it is important for our youth to have the opportunity to work and gain experience [Governor Dennis Daugaard, letter, 2015.03.31].

Many people need opportunities and experience. Are you saying we can justify dropping the minimum wage for every first-time worker? Shall we just put everyone on unpaid internship until they sprout grey hair? And don’t we already provide these “opportunities” with the 90-day training wage, available for every worker under age 20 while he or she figures out which end of the mop is which?

This bill will expand entry-level opportunities for our young people and give businesses another option [Daugaard, 2015.03.31].

But are we justified in “expanding entry-level opportunities” by creating a class of employees whom we can exploit with substandard wages? Remember the training wage. We’re not expanding any opportunities. Employers can already create more entry-level positions with the training wage to help young workers get their first workplace experience; the youth minimum wage simply beats up on workers who can’t vote.

I do not believe Senate bill 177 defies the will of the voters who by a five percent margin approved the minimum wage increases in the fall [Daugaard, 2015.03.31].

Governor Daugaard, are things so bad you have to resort to your own math? The vote on Initiated Measure 18 last November was 55.05% to 44.95%. That’s a 10.1% margin. It’s just like when I write about your big win last November: I don’t say you won by a 20% margin; I add your over 50 and Susan Wismer’s under 50 and say, “Holy cow! Daugaard won his election by a historic 45% margin!” If I tried to say otherwise, you would dispatch your chief of staff to laugh at me, and I’d deserve it.

But what’s your point here, Governor? Are you trying to say the will of the voters isn’t really sacred if the vote is close? Are you saying that any initiative that passes with less than (pick number from hat) 60% is open to Legislative tinkering, but anything that passes with more is not? What Dungeons and Dragons addendum are you composing on the spot to justify throwing your dodecahedral dice at the initiative?

The campaign for the minimum wage increase focused on adult workers who support a household—not on teenagers who, in almost every case, still live at home [Daugaard, 2015.03.31].

From his own math to his own facts: Governor Daugaard appears to be suffering the same amnesia SB 177 sponsor David Novstrup feigned at the March 7 NSU crackerbarrel, when he tried to pretend the press had never covered the argument about youth jobs. We had this discussion. Voters heard this argument. They still voted for a minimum wage increase for everyone.

And if teenagers still live at home, does their income not support the household? Are they not paying for food, gasoline, car insurance, clothes, and other household items? Are their earnings not freeing up other income streams in the house for other purchases?

Poor Senator Novstrup has to rustle up some new arguments to defend his youth minimum wage before the Aberdeen City Council tomorrow night. Governor Daugaard evidently has no help to offer.


  1. Kurt Evans 2015-04-05 18:15

    Ironically, a libertarian argument against SB 177 is that it places adults pursuing entry-level opportunities at an unfair competitive disadvantage relative to minors.

  2. El Rayo X 2015-04-05 19:03

    Great Faces, Great Places needs to be replaced with South Dakota Youth is Worth Less.

  3. larry kurtz 2015-04-05 19:24

    Great Races, Great Chases.

  4. mike from iowa 2015-04-05 20:14

    Someone needs to enlighten the Goob and call him a liar to his face. He apparently doesn’t realize he is a liar. Another one of them pesky 10 commandments bites the dust.

    What do they call people who lie to themselves to justify their actions?

  5. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-04-05 22:16

    Mike: “Delusional”.

  6. Troy 2015-04-06 07:13


    This the best response you could muster?

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-06 07:28

    This is the best response the Governor could muster? I’m working with what I’m given.

  8. larry kurtz 2015-04-06 07:45

    Yeah, Cory: your standards are so much lower than the DD staff member who wrote that letter.

  9. larry kurtz 2015-04-06 07:46

    nn: Nancy Naeve?

  10. Eileen Van Soest 2015-04-06 08:03

    I received the very same letter and plan to let the Governor know his response is not accurate especially re the vote margin and voters knowledge at the time they voted.

  11. barry freed 2015-04-06 08:19

    I like his philosophy: We should give all politicians half pay for their first term as they learn how to arrange no-bid and lifetime contracts for their brothers and friends.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-06 09:00

    Barry, you and your consistency are going to get in trouble. :-)

    Let’s take a stronger look at the Governor’s vague assertion that SB 177 will “give businesses another option.” If that “option” is supposed to be “hiring more young people, the math tells me that one employer has to have eight teenagers on staff already earning minimum wage whose pay she could cut by a dollar an hour. Cutting pay for those eight provides her the revenue savings she needs to cover one more employee at $7.50 an hour.

    How many South Dakota businesses employ eight or more minor workers?

    How many are in need of an additional 12% staff?

    How does the opportunity of one additional job compare to the lost earning potential in eight other jobs?

  13. rwb 2015-04-06 09:11

    Governor Tool.

  14. Jana 2015-04-06 12:05

    “Under God, the People Rule”…not so much.

    Math is hard! Apparently so is reading!

    For the Governor, his staff and the legislature to not have seen the editorial coverage of the debate around smacks of willful ignorance or willful defiance of the “collective wisdom” of the voters of South Dakota.

    The Governor’s defense of his signing of SB177 is both sophomoric and dishonest.

    If only he had the honest courage to say that the pressure from special interests influenced his decision to override the vote of the people of South Dakota.

    “Under the GoP, Business Rules” New state motto issued by executive order.

  15. Jon D 2015-04-06 12:33

    Or even “Under the Table, Business Rules”

  16. Roger Elgersma 2015-04-06 14:37

    Sooooo, we teach our kids that their work is not worth as much doing the same job as when someone else does the same job. This will make them very good South Dakota peons when they grow up. They will have it in their DNA to work for less. The one percent will stay the one percent.
    I thought minimum meant minimum. No one talked about electricians in the campaign. Does this mean that the minimum wage is not for them either. Otten was on TV saying that the teen wage was not discussed during the campaign. This is not true. If it was not and he did not bring it up when it could have made a difference, why bring it up now.

  17. Phil Schreck 2015-04-06 14:51

    Wow, that letter is insulting on so many levels.

    Living in Pierre must automatically send you into some sort of a delusional alternative universe!

  18. MOSES 2015-04-06 15:39

    Roger I also heard it.It looked like it was a softball thrown to him and the other dems there gave him a pass.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-06 16:06

    Jon! That is a well-turned phrase.

  20. mike from iowa 2015-04-06 17:00

    How do you explain to the young ladies that their labor starts out less than an adult’s wages,same as the lads,but as they mature they are paid 20 plus percent less than their opposites? Girls get,shall we say,screwed over and over and never quite catch up because they are female? Chauvanist much?

  21. Joan Brown 2015-04-06 17:42

    If the governor had teenage kids, I wonder how he would like the fact that their minimum wage was a dollar lower then the adult minimum wage. I bet if that was the case he would be jumping up and down about how unfair it is. Maybe he should think about that.

  22. MOSES 2015-04-06 20:59

    you got to have a brain to think.

  23. Winston 2015-04-06 23:21

    A teenager is the greatest job competitor to the working poor, who are most likely the head or one of the heads of a household.

    The working poor and middle class teenagers often worked together doing the same work. SB177 gives the teenagers in this state an advantage in terms of employment opportunities at the expense of the working poor who have household responsibilities.

    If our Governor really believed that the minimum wage referendum passed last year was about empowering those who work and head a household, then why did he sign into law a bill which would lessen their ability to get a job or even to maybe keep it.

    Not to mention that for the working poor, their gas now costs 6 cents more a gallon for them and when they renew their license plates they will be paying 20% more thanks to Governor Daugaard.

    If the Governor understands the minimum wage referendum last year to be about those workers who head a household, then what is about the working poor and their attempts to head a household, that our Governor does not understand?

  24. CLCJM 2015-04-07 00:13

    Phil, it’s not a delusional alternative universe, just the rarified air in the lofty chambers and offices of the Capitol building keeping their brains from getting any oxygen! You know, when you’re so far above the majority of people it makes the problems of the peons seem so small and blurry that it’s so much easier to not see the effects of you cause!

    Very good comments, everyone. Let the pols know what your really think! And if you get the chance to sign the petition about reinstating the youth wage, make sure you do!

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