Now that Tim Goodwin has been voted out of the Legislature after three terms of largely bad ideas, maybe he can focus his energy on mostly harmless blogging. Mostly harmless: in a new column for the SDGOP spin blog, lame-duck Rep. Goodwin peddles a passel of poor policy thinking to the logic-free faithful of the party.
Goodwin lists four budget items and asks readers which one they would vote for:
- Eliminate tax on groceries.
- Eliminate video lottery.
- Pay for Medicaid expansion.
- Reduce home assessment values by $100,000.
Fallacy #1 in Goodwin’s column is his framing of the question as an either/or. None of these policies are mutually exclusive. Who says we can’t do more than one, or all four? Eliminating the state sales tax on groceries would knock $119.1 million out of the budget, but it could bring shoppers along the eastern border back from Worthington, Pipestone, Marshall, and Ortonville to spend more of their grocery dollars here, and that spending would include prepared food and non-food items that would add back some tax revenue and would boost overall revenues for local grocers, who would in turn spend more locally and generate more tax revenue. Eliminating video lottery would reduce the social costs of gambling crime and addiction. Medicaid expansion will cost us maybe $33.2 million a year eventually, but it has paid for itself in many states thanks to reductions in other healthcare costs and the stimulatory effect of pouring hundreds of millions of new federal dollars into local economies and keeping workers healthier. We shouldn’t foster the false notion that we can only afford one of these policies when a rigorous and comprehensive fiscal analysis may show we can afford two, three, or all four.
But if we can afford only one policy, then the obvious priority is funding Medicaid expansion, which is the only one of Goodwin’s options that has been passed and will be law in 2023. Therein lies Goodwin’s second fallacy, treating Medicaid expansion as just another fiscal wish rather than a constitutional amendment approved by the voters. Legislators headed to Pierre in 2023 don’t get to say, “Gee should we expand Medicaid, or should we spend that money on a bunch of other stuff instead?” Medicaid expansion is now (well, technically, will be as of July 1, 2023) a constitutional mandate. The Joint Appropriations has to carve out cash for the state’s portion of the Medicaid expansion cost first; then it can figure out how many items on the wishlist it can fund.
Goodwin’s third fallacy is his repetition of the lie I’ve heard lots of Republicans use to excuse resisting the good fiscal sense that Medicaid expansion has made in 28 other states: “Initially, there are federal funds, but eventually, as early as next year, the federal government is going to pull the rug out from under the states, making each state responsible for funding Medicaid expansion.” This claim is bogus. There is no evidence that the federal government is going to stop funding Medicaid expansion, not next year (hey, Tim: Democrats still control the Senate and the White House) or any year (Republicans couldn’t kill Medicaid expansion and the overarching Affordable Care Act even when they had the chance in 2017 and 2018!). Medicaid expansion is law, federal and now state. When we expand Medicaid, we will get federal funds for 90% of the cost for the foreseeable future.
Fourth and finally, Goodwin misrepresents the impact of the sales tax on food by saying poor people already escape the regressive burden of South Dakota’s unusual application of sales tax to the basic stuff of life because they get food stamps. Tim, get up to speed with your two-faced Governor‘s flip-flop talking points: she has bought into the Democratic proposal to exempt food from the state sales tax not just to help the poor but to save all South Dakota families with the largest tax cut in state history. There are plenty of families who aren’t on food stamps but who are struggling to make ends meet and who would find $468 back in their pockets a great help.
Four major policy misstatements in one little essay is pretty bad. But the more the soon-to-be-former legislator puts his thoughts into writing, the easier it is for all of us to read and understand just how bad Republican thinking is. Keep those columns coming, Tim!