Press Release: Citizens Outraged Over Exhorbitant State Salaries
The following press release is going out from Campaign for Liberty to media across the state of South Dakota, and is provided for informational purposes to SDTPA supporters here:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Shad Olson, South Dakota Tea Party Alliance, (605) 716-7842
Zach Lautenschlager, South Dakota Campaign for Liberty, (605) 431-3140
Taxpayers Express Outrage Over Exorbitant State Salaries
Pierre, S.D.,–Conservative watchdog groups are adding their voices to the chorus of criticism over obscene compensation packages paid to South Dakota’s Executive employees. The criticism stems from the recently publicized conflict between Governor Dennis Daugaard and state investment officer, Matt Clark, which cast a revelatory and damaging spotlight on salaries many consider outrageously high for the public sector.
“Learning that a state level employee like Mr. Clark is paid nearly $400,000, before benefits and bonuses, simply adds to a belief on the part of many taxpayers that their government is out of touch,” said Rip Ryness, Executive Director of South Dakota Campaign for Liberty.
“Hearing that Mr. Clark was also prepared to submit a budget that ignored Governor Daugaard’s call for an across the board, 10% reduction in spending is also troubling, given the current uncertainties faced by so many South Dakotans.”
While Clark has subsequently called the matter a miscommunication and has indicated a willingness to take a pay cut, the controversy has motivated a closer inspection of South Dakota’s executive salaries list and more questions about compensation levels and salary increases at a time when both the state budget and the private sector are struggling to do more with less. Critics like South Dakota Tea Party Alliance President, Shad Olson, say dozens of positions boasting salaries at or above $200,000, are particularly difficult to justify when set against simultaneous spending cuts proposed for South Dakota schools.
“The belief that the Investment Office, or any other executive level state employee should somehow be insulated from belt tightening is insulting,” Olson said. “Ask the average employee in the private sector if they received a cost of living adjustment last year, much less a 100-percent bonus, and then decide whether such departmental bias is warranted.”
Investment office employees including the investment officer, a deputy and an assistant, are eligible to receive performance-based bonuses of up to 100-percent of their previous year’s base pay, meaning they might make as much as double their publicized salary. Bonuses are taken directly from funds managed by the investment office.
“When even an assistant investment officer is paid $209,000, I think there is appropriate room for examining whether such compensation levels might represent an abuse of taxpayer generosity,” Olson said. “I think there is an expectation that any work that is done in the public interest is an opportunity for service and sacrifice, not for abject enrichment that might be better applied to easing the burden on taxpayers.”
With an estimated $140-million structural shortfall in the coming fiscal year, conservative groups are urging lawmakers to find ways to streamline government departments and avoid a need for a tax increase of any kind.
“No one is here to say how much anyone deserves to earn for their given skillset, talent or education,” Olson said. “What we are saying is that the current economic climate makes it difficult to support or defend salary levels and increases that aren’t reflective of what’s happening in the economy at large.”
Both Olson and Ryness say conservative groups will continue to hammer the need for fiscal sanity as the 2011 legislative session moves along.
“The Governor made a promise not to raise taxes,” Ryness said. “I believe the pressure of public opposition to any tax increase will go a long way toward helping him keep that promise, no matter how much pressure special interest groups, including state employees, might apply to individual legislators in the weeks to come.”
Gov. Daugaard in Rapid City
Gov. Dennis Daugaard will be in Rapid City Tuesday Jan. 25 to present his budget and take questions at the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce Luncheon. The cost is $15 per member and $17 per nonmember. Go to the Chamber website at www.rapidcitychamber.com to purchase tickets.
Gov. Daugaard has presented a budget proposal that acknowledges Tea Party priorities of fiscal responsibility and limited government, especially in these difficult economic times. You can find out more about his proposal and ask questions at the luncheon.
Tea Party Response to State of the Union Address
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has confirmed that she will be giving the Tea Party response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday Jan. 25.
For years the opposing party has given a “response” speech after the president’s State of the Union Address every January. This year, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will give the Republican response following the State of the union. Ryan is the author of the “Roadmap for America’s Future” plan to wean America off entitlements and improve the budget process.
This year, the Tea Party will also be giving a response which will be delivered by the architect of the U.S. House Tea Party Caucus, Rep. Bachmann. Check local listings for television coverage or watch the webcast at www.TeaPartyExpress.org.
SDTPA Monthly Meeting
The monthly meeting of the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance for January will be held on Thurs. Jan. 27 at 6:30 pm.
The Disabled American Veterans of Rapid City have graciously offered to allow us to use their facilities for meetings in exchange for a small fee to help with expenses. The DAV hall is located at 101 East Madison Street in Rapid City just a few blocks north of East North Street. You can get there by turning off of East North Street onto East Blvd North (click here for a photo of the turnoff). Click here for an interactive map you can use for directions. Parking at the DAV hall is very limited, but Pastor Elton Yellow Boy has graciously allowed us to park across the street at the North Rapid Community Church.
Our special guest speaker for the evening will be former Tea Party leader Gordon Howie. Howie continues to be involved in a number of conservative pursuits across the state and will share some of what he’s seeing.
Be sure to invite a friend or two to come with you. There is strength in numbers, and while we won some great victories last year, more challenges lie ahead.
Your country and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance needs YOU, and we hope to see you there!