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Mercer: Lots of Legislators Have More Budget Experience Than Noem

Governor Kristi Noem probably doesn’t want to talk to reporter Bob Mercer because of his subtle but merciless fact-checking. Check out how, without saying, “Noem is full of crap,” Mercer demonstrates that Noem is indeed full of crap when she attempts to characterize the Legislature as a bunch of spend-happy newbies:

Noem somewhat addressed state government’s budget in an October 27 weekly column that called attention to the fact that “51 of the 105 members of our legislature have only been serving since 2020…These legislators are used to having huge revenues and surpluses to spend on whatever they want. They have not had to do what more and more families across America are having to do – stick to a tight budget.”

The 18 senators and representatives on the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee oversee state government’s budget.…

The committee’s co-chairs are Republican Senator Jean Hunhoff, whose 23 years of service so far make Hunhoff the Legislature’s longest-serving current member, and Republican Representative Mike Derby, whose nine years are equal to the time that Noem was a legislator and governor.

Many others on the committee are Republican legislative veterans such as Jim Bolin (15 years), Ryan Maher (15 years), Ernie Otten (11 years), Dean Wink, (11 years), John Wiik (nine years), Larry Zikmund (nine years), Chris Karr (seven years), Jack Kolbeck (seven years) and John Mills (seven years).

None has a reputation as a big spender. To the contrary, Karr led the effort in the 2023 session to reduce the state sales and use tax rate to 4.2% from 4.5%, with Maher as the measure’s lead Senate sponsor. Noem had wanted to instead repeal the state sales and use tax on most food items, an idea that she had featured in her 2022 re-election campaign, but the Legislature backed Karr’s bill. Lawmakers took a cautious approach to Karr’s proposal, amending it so it expires on June 30, 2027. Karr plans to ask the Legislature to make the cut permanent, an approach that Noem now supports.

Another member of the Appropriations Committee is Tony Venhuizen, a first-term lawmaker who arguably has deeper experience in state government than Noem. Venhuizen previously spent more than a decade in top executive branch positions, including four-plus years as chief of staff for Noem’s predecessor, Governor Dennis Daugaard, and time in Noem’s administration as a senior advisor and as her chief of staff [Bob Mercer, “Secrecy Surrounds Noem’s Budget Recommendations,” KELO-TV, 2023.12.03].

Hunhoff, Derby, Bolin, Maher, Venhuizen—these legislators aren’t distracted by frequent out-of-state flights and Fox News appearances. These legislators have helped write more state budgets than Kristi Noem has ever paid attention to. They’ve legislated through flush years and flat years. They are all part of the generation-spanning Republican establishment that has mired South Dakota in chronic economic underperformance, but they are most definitely not the out-of-touch rookie cash-bleeders that Noem is trying to play as foils to her experienced fiscal conservative act.

And having Bob Mercer remind her of that is a sure ticket to extending the Governor’s press embargo against Mercer and KELO-TV.


  1. larry kurtz 2023-12-05 08:37

    Cory’s “generation-spanning Republican establishment that has mired South Dakota in chronic economic underperformance” is an understatement worthy of quoting.

  2. e platypus onion 2023-12-05 08:43

    Noem’s a liar. Who knew, except,for her many admirers who refuse to see the truth.

  3. O 2023-12-05 08:50

    If Governor Noem really talked to people, she would find that although many have “had to do what more and more families across America are having to do – stick to a tight budget,” they also have had to get additional jobs to provide for the basic needs they have. There is only so much going without people are capable of.

    I believe it was was the true fiscal conservatives in the Senate and House that wanted to slow the discussion on tax cuts, knowing that the federal tap would be turning off. Part of why SD will have to tighten the budget is self-inflicted: to save individuals a few dollars a year in tax relief. People who understand budgets — both now and a year ago — know how small, even unnoticed tax cuts have YUGE implications on state budgets.

    I would also add the House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem know their way around a state budget as they lead their caucus.

  4. larry kurtz 2023-12-05 16:21

    Wyoming is pretty famous for an aphorism that goes something like, “when the boom comes again we promise not to piss it away” but South Dakota doesn’t really have radical economic cycles so price increases are flatter generally and state revenues suffer because of it. Is that freedom or just blockheadedness?

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