When Senator Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Lake Kampeska) craftily moved the vote on Amendment C, the 60% vote threshold for fiscal ballot measures, to this year’s primary ballot instead of the general election, he admitted he doing so to ensure the measure could take effect before the general election and make it harder for voters to expand Medicaid:
Several Senate Republicans had spoken against the resolution because it leap-frogs the issue in front of ballot measures that are already in the works, including an effort to make Medicaid health insurance available to people who live below 133% of the federal poverty level.
But Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, the Senate pro tem, initiated the move to expedite the constitutional amendment vote, saying it was important to get “safeguards in place for the taxpayers.”
He acknowledged that his expedited push was motivated by the Medicaid expansion campaign, but argued that the vote threshold should apply to all ballot initiatives that levy taxes or spend significant state funds [“Lawmakers Push 60% Vote Threshold on Tax Ballot Measures,” AP via KOTA-TV, 2021.03.05].
At a candidate debate against his primary challenger Colin Paulsen in Watertown this week, Senator Schoenbeck reiterated his intent to stifle Medicaid expansion:
“I put it there because I want it to be in place—if the voters approve it—for the general election that’s going to happen because we’re going to have Medicaid expansion there,” Schoenbeck says. “I don’t happen to support more welfare. I want to have a higher threshold for when we vote on that in November. That’s why it’s on the primary ballot. There’s no other reason” [Lee Strubinger, “Senator Moved Ballot Question for ‘Higher Threshold’ on Medicaid Expansion,” SDPB, 2022.05.06].
Schoenbeck is only underscoring what he made clear a year ago: Amendment C is an effort to defeat Medicaid. Dakotans for Health, the ballot question committee for which I work and which this week submitted a petition to place a law to expand Medicaid on the November ballot recognizes this fact and is actively campaigning against Amendment C. South Dakotans Decide Healthcare, the other ballot question committee backing Constitutional Amendment D to expand Medicaid, tells SDPB, “We’re not going to let anyone or anything distract us from that goal,” but that committee has remained neutral on Amendment C:
Zach Marcus, the campaign manager for South Dakotans Decide Healthcare, which is sponsoring the Medicaid expansion vote, said his organization has not taken a position on Amendment C, although some of the organization’s coalition members are opposing it [Jonathan Ellis, “Voters Will Decide Whether They Want to Make It Harder for South Dakota to Raise Taxes,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2022.05.02].
Supporting Medicaid expansion but remaining neutral on Amendment C is like sitting in Kiev, saying you’ll fight for Ukrainian sovereignty, but not protesting Putin’s air strikes on your schools and hospitals. If you’re fighting for Ukraine and you see Putin coming, you rev up the Gepards and open fire! If you’re fighting for Medicaid expansion and you see Schoenbeck coming (yes, in this case, Schoenbeck is Putin), you don’t wait for October to campaign for your measure; you rally all your friends and tell them to Vote NO on C!