Posts Tagged ‘South Dakota’

ACLU Sues to Expand Gun Rights in SD

Posted: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 8:20 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Holy cow! The American Civil Liberties Union is suing South Dakota over our concealed weapons law. No, the ACLU is not trying to take your guns away. They actually want more people to be able to pack hidden heat… including non-citizens:

The ACLU of SD is suing on behalf of Wayne Smith, a lawful permanent resident since 1979 who has lived in the United States for the past 30 years after emigrating from the United Kingdom. Like many locals, Smith enjoys collecting sporting guns and hunting when he’s not working or spending time with his wife, a native South Dakotan. Smith was previously granted a concealed weapon permit four times before being denied in July, 2010. The denial of his application was based solely on his residency status, even though he lives and works in this country legally and has never been accused of a weapons violation.

“Discrimination against law-abiding residents for such arbitrary reasons serves no purpose but to advance governmental intrusion into the private lives of all Americans,” said Robert Doody, Executive Director of the ACLU of SD. The Fourteenth Amendment which extends to non-citizens as well as citizens generally prohibits states from creating laws that treat people of protected classes differently. “Mr. Smith is a legal resident who has followed all of the laws and guidelines of the state of South Dakota. As such, he is entitled to privacy in his home and equal treatment under the law, since there is no compelling reason why he should be treated differently,” says Doody [ACLU-SD, press release, 2011.01.03].

Seriously, if we think self-defense is sufficiently important to permit folks to walk down our streets with concealed weapons, isn’t it unneighborly to tell foreign visitors and legal residents like Mr. Smith that they don’t get to come equally prepared to all those gun fights that break out in downtown Sioux Falls and Rapid City?

I can’t wait to read the National Rifle Association’s amicus curiae on this one.

And lest you think the ACLU is stretching, take note: in 2008, they successfully challenged a similar citizenship requirement for concealed weapons permits in Kentucky.

Top 11 Posts of 2010: My Best Work

Posted: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 12:15 pm
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Wednesday I compiled a list of the top ten stories of 2010 based on number of reader comments. Now let’s slice and dice 2010 purely by personal preference. Out of over 1350 blog posts published this year, here are eleven stories, not necessarily in order of importance, that I think represent my best blog work in 2010. These stories may not have affected the most people or drawn the most fire, but they’re stories that make me feel proud to say I’m a blogger.

1. Local Candidate Forums: If blogging paid the bills, I’d cover local politics like this every day. Even without a big paycheck I managed to give solid coverage to the October 20 and October 27 candidate forums (fora?) held here in Madison. My notes and video from both events provided the most complete online record of our local candidates’ positions. As for commentary, well, where else will you find this kind of in-depth opinion and analysis on candidates for state legislature, county commission, sheriff, and county auditor?

Bonus: Quality local political coverage like this got my friend Matt Groce to invite me onto KJAM for some live Election Night punditry. What a blast! Thanks, Matt… and thank you, neighbors, for listening!

2. Veblen Dairies Collapse: In one of the biggest stories ignored by South Dakota’s mainstream media, serial feedlot polluter Richard Millner lost his mega-dairy fiefdom collapse. His dairies in Veblen, South Dakota, as well as operations in North Dakota and Minnesota, all went into bankruptcy. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency rebuffed Millner twice and shut down his stinky Excel Dairy in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources declared it will not issue a manure permit to a dairy where Millner holds decision-making power. Millner tried to reorganize his investors to cling to the two giant Veblen dairies, but those efforts fell apart, and the bank will likely take possession of both facilities.

I hit this story hard because Rick Millner has left a swath of illegal environmental and economic destruction in every community where he’s done business. Why the media largely ignored this story, when Millner’s Veblen operations constituted 15% of South Dakota’s dairy industry and when his operations received special government support through the EB-5 Visa program, continues to puzzle me.

The Veblen dairy story also demonstrates that collaboration makes good online journalism. My coverage of Richard Millner’s environmental abuses and financial collapse was supported by numerous sources, folks who wanted to get the Veblen story out so Millner would not be able to take advantage of others the way he’s taken advantage of them. We owe these good people our respect and our thanks.

3. TransCanada Keystone Leaks: Four pump stations in a row, three in South Dakota, one in Nebraska, sprang leaks as TransCanada brought its Keystone I pipeline online. Four leaks in a three-month span; that’s three more leaks than TransCanada said we’d get in 65 years. And even with TransCanada now digging up sections of the Keystone I to check for defective steel, our mainstream media remain mostly quiet about TransCanada’s errors.

4. Clark Schmidtke, Russell Olson, and Court Records: Indy-Dem Clark Schmidtke challenged Russell Olson for the District 8 State Senate seat. For his trouble, Schmidtke got his criminal record brought to light in the South Dakota blogosphere. I reported both Schmidtke’s fraud conviction and jail time in Minnesota and Olson’s own lengthy court record. The local paper covered Schmidtke’s record, but not Olson’s.

5. Herseth Sandlin vs. Noem at State Fair Debate: If I had any doubts about voting for Blue Dog Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, witnessing her dismantle Kristi Noem on stage at the South Dakota State Fair Congressional debate completely dismissed them. That debate fueled ten full blog posts that convinced me South Dakota would be worse off with Kristi Noem in Congress. 52% of South Dakota voters agreed with me… but since 6% of them picked B. Thomas Marking, the 48% who backed Noem got their way.

6. “Summer Storm in the City as I Wait to Drive Home: Speaking of Democrats, my first state Democratic convention was blogworthy; so was the thunderstorm afterward. Sometimes it’s nice to trade the political pen for the poetical.

7. Colton Turning Stimulus into Energy Independence: When he runs for re-election in 2012, President Obama should make a campaign stop in Colton, South Dakota, to show the results of his stimulus package at their best. My blog post on Colton’s energy independence initiative combined original reporting and good pix on a sunny fall day to highlight innovative thinking in small-town South Dakota, helped by smart investment by Uncle Sam.

8. How to Promote Arts, Culture, and Community in Small-Town South Dakota: The Madison Dairy Queen staged another successful Miracle Treat Day fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network. The fun kids games and live music on the street (and the Mason’s rooftop!) didn’t just help sick kids and their families; the event also provided an object lesson in creative community development in rural South Dakota.

9. IgniteSD: Speaking of creative cultural development, my friends John and Scott Meyer started IgniteSD, a fun community event that brings folks together to talk about their passions and big ideas. I had the privilege of delivering the inaugural IgniteSD talk in Brookings in April, an event that inspired this rhapsodic post. Then I helped pack Mochavino for IgniteSD #2 right here in Madison in May.

10. Lake Madison Public Access Area: Lake County opened its new public access area on Lake Madison this spring, giving me an excuse for a new bike route and a fun blog photo essay. If only everything worth blogging were within bicycling distance….

11. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pacifism, and Blogospheric Multilogue: My post on the great Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his spiritual and physical struggle against the Nazis was just one thread in a conversation that involved numerous South Dakota bloggers and commenters. This conversation about theology, history, and politics represents the South Dakota blogopshere at its best: South Dakotans of very different political and religious persuasions engaging in thoughtful conversation about challenging issues. Let’s hope 2011 brings even more multivocal conversations like this.

*     *     *

1350+ blog posts is a lot to review! I’m sure I left out some of your favorites. So I’m open to nominations from the floor: what 2010 stories did you like best?

Madville Times Top Ten of 2010: What Readers Said

Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 7:53 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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There are many ways to determine an annual “Top Stories List.” In the blogosphere, one useful measure is the amount of conversation provoked by a story. So here’s my list of the this year’s big conversation starters, as measured by number of comments, here on the Madville Times:

  1. Full-Reserve Banking? My Cousin Must Be Kidding…: Didn’t expect that, did you? My wingnut cousin Aaron (who works in finance and should know better… unless he’s in with Glenn Beck on trying to push gold prices) proposed requiring banks to maintain full reserves instead of doing what George Bailey and every other banker does: loan your savings out to borrowers who want to build homes and business. A host of other interested parties joined in to explain why the free market has rejected this economy-crashing system.
  2. Christians, Get with the Program: Ditch Creationism for Real Science: I noted some more theologically inclined writers’ position what the church should stop fretting over creationism and embrace evolution.
  3. Want Nazi Tactics? See Arizona’s Anti-Immigration Law: mention Arizona, immigration, and fascism, and you’re sure to get people talking.
  4. Gordon Howie, Please Quit: Retiring State Senator Gordon Howie failed to get his health care reform nullification act through the Legislature. He then failed to gather enough signatures to place it on the general election ballot. He kept flogging the issue, thinking it would propel him to victory in the June gubernatorial primary. No such luck.
  5. Brothers’ Keepers: Cognitive Dissonance in American Health Care: We Americans pay for our health care almost entirely through the collective means of insurance. Yet we reject efforts to use the most effective, inclusive collective health insurance system possible, a nationwide risk pool created through single-payer or a strong public option. I still don’t get it.
  6. President Obama: “Government Is Us”: Our President said that to graduates at the University of Michigan. I’ve been saying that readers here from the start. The Tea Party still doesn’t get it.
  7. Dog Bites Man; Bob Ellis Wrong; Howie Is Teabagger: Various conservatives preferred to bog us down in a debate over an obscene term that Gordon Howie and other Tea Party sign-wavers publicly embraced.
  8. Gordon Howie Campaigning to Stop Deportation of God: Howie slurped up all sorts of my bandwidth, here by manufacturing the false issue of God’s imminent expulsion from South Dakota.
  9. KELO Editorializes, Says God Exists: Fortunately, our liberal media asserted that, even after Howie’s defeat at the polls, the Deity was still among us.
  10. Religion and Politics: Engaging the Beast Versus Becoming the Beast: Legislative candidate Pastor Steve Hickey got me thinking more about the proper role of pastors and religion in politics. Pastor Hickey led off the comments by assuring us he seeks no theocracy or oppression of atheists like me. With the good pastor now ascending (take a moment… think about that) to the State House to make laws amidst a Republican supermajority, I will be watching to hold him to that word.

Honorable Mentions: a few stories didn’t draw quite as many comments per post but did draw lots of comments over several separate posts as the stories developed.

  1. The Madison Central School District new gym and high school renovation plan has elicited a great deal of discussion, including details of the MHS video tour, practical alternatives to put more priority on academics and arts, and concerns that the school’s early voting scheme bends if not breaks state election laws.
  2. The Blog Control Acts, HB 1277 and HB 1278, proposed in the State Legislature in February got bloggers riled up and speaking out on both sides of the issue. Mr. Epp and I and many others debated the extent of the First Amendment.
  3. Kristi Noem and her supporters dissembled and spun her way to South Dakota’s lone U.S. House seat, while South Dakota Dems wreslted with finding the right balance between defending and challenging our Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

Smoking Ban: Gambling Down, Bar/Restaurant Biz Up!

Posted: Monday, December 27, 2010 at 9:30 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Father Tim celebrates the apparent decline of vice in South Dakota. The Northern Plains Anglican reads in that Sioux Falls paper that video lottery revenue in the three weeks following implementation of the voter-approved indoor smoking ban dropped 19.1%. Good riddance to bad money, says the good shepherd:

…I would rather pay a clearly stated income or property tax than depend upon state-sponsored gambling or “sin taxes’ to fund public services. Yes, these gadgets probably keep my taxes lower. But they also exploit people at points of weakness and smack of hypocrisy: we say we don’t want people smoking or gambling but then budget public revenue expectations from those behaviors [Rev. Timothy L. Fountain, “Tumbling Vice: Smoking Ban Cutting into Video Lottery Play, Too,” Northern Plains Anglicans, 2010.12.26].

Gambling may be down, but overall, bars and restaurants enjoyed a boost in November. The November sales and use tax report from the Department of Revenue shows “eating and drinking places” doing 8.1% more business last month than in November 2009. Could it be that more people like going to smoke-free restaurants, just as I suggested back in November?

Now the gains in sales may not fully replace the loss in gambling revenues for the state and for bar owners. but if bar and restaurant owners have to make their money the old-fashioned way—earning it through good service and good food rather than simply cashing in on addicitve behavior—won’t we all be richer?

Hunter: South Dakotans up to Eyeballs in Newspapers

Posted: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 at 9:06 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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I may complain about the paucity of local media, but Madison Daily Leader publisher Jon Hunter contends South Dakota’s newspaper market has more players than most places. In his Monday editorial, our man Hunter congratulates the Garretson Gazette and the Native Sun News on ascending to the noble ranks of “legal newspapers” (i.e., getting to publish legal notices from local government entitites, the convenient racket that the newspaper association uses to protect its market share from innovators who would save tax dollars by publishing meeting minutes and new ordinances online).

In the process, Hunter notes that “There are now 119 weekly and 11 daily newspapers in South Dakota, the most per capita of any state in the nation.”

Given our new official population of 814,000, that’s one daily for every 74,000 South Dakotans. Turn the number another way, that’s 13.5 daily newspapers per million population. According to data from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, that gives us press coverage almost as good as Switzerland (which has 14.0 dailies per million). Of the 25 countries with higher daily-per-million ratings, most are pa-dinkally places like San Marino, Liechtenstein, Aruba, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Our Norsky forebears also outnews us (19.3 dailies per million), but South Dakota beats Sweden (11.0), Denmark (7.2), and the United States as a whole (6.0 dailies per million, or one paper per 167,000 people).

Think of South Dakota as a single community that just happens to be spread out across 77,000 square miles: we have 11 daily newspapers serving a population about the same size as Indianapolis or San Francisco. Yahoo’s directory pops up fifteen papers for San Francisco. Mondo Times lists four Indianapolis papers.

But does quantity mean quality? That depends on how you define quality in newspapers. If we’re talking reach and impact, only two of those 130 publications, the Rapid City Journal and that Sioux Falls paper approach statewide status (though I get the feeling from the Web that the Mitchell Daily Republic is trying). Most of the rest do what they do reasonably well, covering their local events, but rarely reaching beyond their county borders.

If we’re talking breadth of viewpoints, well, we’re eating mostly white bread. Most of the newspapers Jon Hunter counts are of the same genre: community booster rags with lots of pics from the kids’ basketball games and the local Tour of Gardens, spiced with the occasional contrarian letter to the editor. (Monday’s Madison Daily Leader letters: advice from the Car Care Council in Maryland on keeping our cars ready for winter, and tips from a local nursing home manager on good Christmas gifts for old folks.) Most South Dakota newspapers operate in tiny media monopolies with no alternative voices on paper to challenge them. The closest thing to a regular alternative press may be the college weeklies (and note: after 108 years in print, DSU’s student newspaper, The Trojan Times, is going all digital).

Compare that to San Francisco, where the mainstream San Francisco Chronicle dominates, but where dozens of alternative newspapers coexist and serve the same community with different ethnic and political viewpoints.

And as we love to point out, of those 11 South Dakota dailies, only the Madison Daily Leader is independently and locally owned. Local control matters, especially when it comes to news. When the money decisions are made elsewhere, you end up with the biggest papers in the state not maintaining bureaus in Pierre to cover state government.

Having lots of newspapers is great. South Dakota’s newspapers tell stories that no one else is going to cover. But the lack of local ownership, diversity of voices, and breadth of coverage leave room for improvement. Keep printing, Jon!

Lake County Lags in Wages, Loses 6.6% in 2009

Posted: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 8:45 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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The Bureau of Economic Analysis just released its report on county compensation by industry for 2009. Average compensation per job increased 1.2%, to just about $57,000. Unfortunately, fewer people had jobs, so the total amount of compensation went down 3.2%. Some smalll relief: inflation was only 0.2%.

Two-thirds of our 3113 counties saw compensation go down in 2009. The map shows a familiar pattern (click image to enlarge):
compensation gains and losses, by county, BEA, 2009
The center of the country does better than the coasts. The most populous counties generally saw larger decreases in compensation (3.7%) than medium and smaller counties (2.2%–2.3%)

South Dakota looks pretty healthy, with lots of counties in the blue upper quintiles (remember, blue is good on this map, while gold shows where there’s less gold). But hey, zoom in: what’s that gold spot in East River South Dakota?
Compensation gains by county, Plains Regions, U.S., BEA 2009

Discover the Unexpected™: Lake County bucked the statewide trend and landed in the lowest national quintile for compensation growth. Statewide, average compensation per job increased 1.3%, from $32,702 to $33,136. Total compensation statewide went down 0.7%. But in Lake County, the average wage decreased 1.8%, from $28,993 to $28,466. Total compensation in Lake County dropped 6.6%.

Only four counties—McCook, Marshall, Union, and Harding—saw worse declines on total compensation. Harding lost the most compensation, dropping 15.7%, with average wages per job dropping $3200 in one year. Weep not for Union County, though: they have the highest average wage per job in the state, just over $39,000.

South Dakotans Don’t Translate Financial Literacy into Good Financial Practice

Posted: Monday, December 20, 2010 at 10:00 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has published results of its nationwide Financial Capability Study. KELO follows the order of the press release for South Dakota and puts the good news first: we South Dakotans are third best at “financial literacy.” In this survey, “financial literacy” is determined by performance on a five-question financial quiz that you can take online to see how you score compared to your fellow South Dakotans. (Perfect 5 for me; South Dakota’s average is 3.27; U.S. average is 2.99.)

In terms of what we actually do with our financial knowledge, South Dakotans are worse than national averages. 23% of South Dakotans spent more than they made… and that’s not counting buyinh a house or car. 62% of us budget the way I play whist: living from paycheck to paycheck without much of a plan. 65% of us lack a three-month rainy day fund. 26% of South Dakotans have taken non-bank loans (e.g., predatory payday loans) in the past five years. 64% of us don’t comparison-shop for credit cards (although on that score, does it really matter?).

It just goes to show that doing well on a quiz doesn’t mean you’ll do well in life.

Rounds Budget Ignores $29M Gap in Homestake Funding

Posted: Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 9:30 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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This week, reporter Bob Mercer declared that Governor Mike Rounds’s effort to realize Bill Janklow’s vision of converting the Homestake mine into a world-class research facility would be recognized as the greatest achievement of the Rounds administration. In a November 12 blog post, blogger Pat Powers pointed to the Sanford Underground Laboratory in Lead as “Mike Rounds’ one crowning achievement.”

The biggest jewel in Rounds’s legacy crown may have just fallen out. Last week the National Science Board decided to ax a $29-million grant that the National Science Foundation it oversees had authorized for the Sanford Lab last year. The National Science Board had lots of good things to say about the lab when they visited in September, But now board member Mark Abbott says the Department of Energy, other agencies, and perhaps international sources should fund the project instead of NSF.

The Governor has spent “countless hours on the phone” with Washington trying to fix this funding flop. Losing those funds would be bad for the lab, even in the short-term. Governor Rounds says at the very least, the scientists at the lab need steady funding for job security. Ron Wheeler, director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority that runs the lab, told legislators last month “We’re not looking for the (South Dakota) taxpayers to cover any more expenses for the authority.”

Comparison: Governor Rounds has asked for a $39 million reduction in state aid to K-12 education.

The Governor already had to cajole the Legislature to approve $5.4 million in additional funding last winter to keep the lab afloat until the NSF funding was anticipated to arrive in May 2011. The disappearance of that NSF funding could create an ugly political situation in a legislature already being asked to cut K-12 education 5%.

Significant as this decision is, it is thus surprising that Governor Rounds made no mention of it during is budget address on Tuesday. His budget proposal includes a $10.6M reduction in the Science and Tech Authority in anticipation of the NSF grant:

The total recommended FY2012 budget for the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority is $8,960,000 in other fund expenditure authority and 5.0 FTE. A decrease of $10,639,023 in other fund expenditure authority and 65.0 FTE is being recommended because the National Science Foundation (NSF) is expected to take over the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) operations in the spring of 2011 [State of South Dakota Governor’s Budget: Fiscal Year 2012, p. 47].

The National Science Board met December 1–2. Governor Rounds presented his budget December 7. It seems odd that the Governor would not address a significant budget setback for a project so important to South Dakota’s educational and economic development, not to mention the Governor’s “legacy.”

I share the Governor’s desire to see this project go forward. I sincerely hope that this governor’s greatest legacy may be a facility for the eggheads and intellectuals who too often get short-shrift in South Dakota culture.

But if the Legislature and South Dakota taxpayers aren’t going to be asked to cover the gap again, who’s left? We could hit T. Denny Sanford up again… but I have a feeling we’re going to enjoy the splendid irony of Republicans John Thune, Kristi Noem, Mike Rounds, and Dennis Daugaard working hard to win more money from Washington, D.C.

possibly related:

While stopping all the tax hikes would be a good first step, this alone won’t eliminate the job-killing uncertainty hanging over our employers and entrepreneurs.

That’s why we need to focus on cutting spending and reducing the size of government. The American people want us to stop spending dollars we don’t have.

To do that, we need to start taking a long, hard look at the size and scope of government and find new ways to resist Washington’s urge to grow and to grow. Let’s do a better job of following the money and evaluating the effectiveness of government agencies [Kristi Noem, GOP radio address, 2010.12.11].

Uncle Sam Boosts SD University Budgets

Posted: Friday, December 10, 2010 at 9:12 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Please tell me Kristi Noem and John Thune won’t send this money back: Governor Rounds’s budget proposal has Uncle Sam giving $54 million more to South Dakota’s public university system in Fiscal Year 2012. That increase is part of $248 million in total anticipated federal funding for Board of Regents programs. Essentially, Uncle Sam picks up 31% of the total $797 million Regental budget.

Some universities come out better than others under the proposed budget. Here’s a chart of the net changes proposed from this year’s budget to next year’s:

Proposed Changes from FY 2011 to FY2012
State Fund
Federal Fund
Other Fund
Total FTE
Total $3,818,909 $53,823,221 $19,902,254 $77,544,384 227.5
Central Office ($6,026) $0 $1,650,845 $1,644,819 0.0
Scholarships $31,642 $0 $0 $31,642 0.0
Employee Compensation and Health Insurance $3,051,208 $1,113,729 $3,181,609 $7,346,546 0.0
USD $178,715 ($2,737,138) $0 ($2,558,423) 0.0
USD Med $106,310 ($1,628,199) $0 ($1,521,889) 0.0
SDSU $247,604 $4,807,787 $11,412,400 $16,467,791 136.5
SDSM&T $80,969 $56,579,910 $1,930,000 $58,590,879 40.0
NSU $48,780 ($747,103) $0 ($698,323) 5.0
BHSU $40,173 ($5,710,280) $477,400 ($5,192,707) 11.0
DSU $39,534 $2,144,515 $1,250,000 $3,434,049 35.0

The biggest chunk of new federal dollars goes to the School of Mines (Tony’s probably building an even bigger laser to pop popcorn at the dean’s house). The biggest jump in jobs, though, comes at SDSU, which gets 60% of the new full-time equivalents.

Dakota State University comes out o.k., with nearly three and a half million more in funding and 35 new jobs. That would make up nicely for the seven teachers the Madison Central School District would have to fire to make up for the $275K Governor Rounds wants to cut from their budget. Maybe we just need to graduate some kids early and send them to DSU.

SD Cost of Living Exceeds US Average

Posted: Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 7:53 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Here’s news to straighten your curls: South Dakota’s cost of living is higher than the national average.

Say what? The last time I ran numbers on cost of living and salaries, I found that in Quarter 1 of this year, South Dakota’s cost of living was 92.8% of the national average, the 13th lowest in the nation. When I checked my usual source, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), I found South Dakota’s cost of living jumped in the third quarter to 101.25% of the national average. That ranks us 32nd in the nation.

Hold on—really? I’ve been following these cost-of-living figures for some time, and South Dakota’s has consistently floated around the 90% level. How did we suddenly, in just a couple quarters, boom up over 101%?

I emailed MERIC to find out if they could explain this strange stat. They replied (with admirable alacrity!) that Q2 saw “a huge increase in transportation, housing, and grocery costs” (dang—don’t tell me Sarah Palin was right!) and that Q3 saw a big surge in health care costs. MERIC explains that sometimes some cities participating in the C2ER/ACCRA cost-of-living survey misreport or don’t report for a certain period, while other experience some price volatility that mucks up the comparisons. MERIC says their own state of Missouri dropped out of its normal position in the top 10 for a couple quarters, then bounced back.

So what do you think, fellow South Dakota shoppers? Have we seen an unusual price spike in the last couple quarters that didn’t happen in other states? Or is this sudden 101.25% cost of living just an artifact of gimpy data?

Just in case these numbers are legit, permit me to run my favorite cost-of-living calculation: teacher pay purchasing power:

State Avg Teacher Pay (AY 2008-2009) % US Avg TP Rank Cost of Living Index (2010 Q3) COL Rank Teacher Purchasing Power
SD $35,070 64.56 51 101.25 32 63.77
ND $41,654 76.68 50 98.59 24 77.78
MN $51,938 95.62 20 103.4 34 92.47
IA $48,638 89.54 26 94.51 16 94.74
NE $44,957 82.76 42 90.78 6 91.17
WY $54,602 100.52 16 99.61 29 100.91
MT $44,426 81.79 46 99.43 28 82.26
US $54,319 100

Short form: by current cost of living data, public school teachers choosing to live and work in South Dakota will have less than 64% of the purchasing power than the national average. If those teachers leave South Dakota for any neighboring state they will make more money and be able to buy more with that money. Even in Minnesota, with the highest cost of living in the neighborhood, teachers would enjoy 45% more purchasing power than they do in South Dakota… at least by Q3 numbers.