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Broadcaster Press 3 July 18, 2017 www.broadcasteronline.com The Direct Effects Of Financial Stewardship By Gov. Dennis Daugaard: As Governor of South Dakota, financial stewardship is one of my top priorities. When it comes to balancing the budget, managing the retirement system and maintaining our AAA credit ratings, I dive into the details. Although it may take time, responsible stewardship can bring financial rewards. The latest example of this can be found in South Dakota’s unemployment insurance trust fund. In 2004, the cost of our state’s unemployment benefits began to exceed normal revenue. Continuing on the same path would mean the trust fund would decline and eventually become insolvent. The Rounds Administration and the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council addressed the problem by adopting a series of comprehensive solvency packages which began working to restore solvency. Then in 2008, the Great Recession arrived in full force. Thousands of South Dakotans lost their jobs and made claims for unemployment. Weekly benefit payments from the trust fund were unprecedented. The trust fund balance was dropping faster than any predictions. By the end of 2009, South Dakota was forced to obtain federal loans to make benefit payments. Emergency legislation was proposed during the 2010 Legislative Session which increased the taxable wage base through 2015, established higher tax rates for employers with negative account balances and raised the maximum tax rate to 9.5 percent. These reforms did the trick. In June 2010, the trust fund had steadily increased, and South Dakota was able to repay the federal loan of $24 million and start rebuilding. Four years later, the trust fund was back in a good position, so we brought legislation reducing employer taxes starting Jan. 1, 2015. Even with the reduction, the trust fund continued to grow at a steady pace. Recognizing the need to plan for the future, the Advisory Council recommended that the unemployment trust fund be maintained at a level which could pay 19 months of benefits at the average highest cost rate. As a result of this recommendation, last legislative session, the Legislature passed and I signed a bill to revise the current UI tax rates and provide a tax break to employers. Under this new law, employers receive a permanent tax break of 0.05 percent effective Jan. 1, 2018. This will save employers $2.3 million annually. Additionally, each year, if the trust fund balance on June 30 reaches the 19-month safety net threshold, employer tax rates will be reduced by another 0.1 percent. Based on the current balance of the trust fund, this means employers will save an additional $5 million for 2018. Through much diligence and ongoing evaluation, South Dakota’s unemployment insurance trust fund is healthier now than it has ever been. I thank the Advisory Council, the SD Department of Labor and Regulation, and legislators for advancing policies that have put the fund in this unprecedented condition. They recognize, as I do, that employers have enough hurdles in front of them and we should give them a break when we can. Weekly Column: Too Many Veteran Lives Lost By Rep. Kristi Noem 20 veterans. That’s how many, on average, we lose every day to suicide. 20 veterans a day. 600 a month. 7,300 a year. At least one South Dakotan, however, is dedicated to bringing that number to zero and his efforts have earned him the 2017 Army Times Soldier of the Year Award. Major Chris Mercado, a native of Sioux Falls who I met with earlier this month, joined the military after earning his degree from USD. By 2006, he was deployed to Baghdad, and upon completion of his tour, he volunteered to serve in Afghanistan. In 2014, he was deployed to Jerusalem. His service has earned him three Bronze Star Medals, the Meritorious Service Medal, and many other honors. But maybe his most heroic act was a six-hour phone call he took in the fall of 2014. His former squad leader, Staff Sargent Justin Miller, had recently transitioned out of the military. Unemployed, Justin was abusing alcohol to deal with survivor’s guilt and contemplating suicide. He’d hit “rock bottom.” But Chris made time to listen and the thoughts Justin had of taking his own life began to dissipate. The following year, Justin and Chris joined to form the Objective Zero Foundation and are now building a smart phone app to instantly and anonymously connect active-duty service members, veterans, and families with someone who can help. The user has the choice of connecting with someone (a licensed therapist, minister, another veteran or service member, a concerned citizen, etc.) by phone, over text, or on a video chat. In short, the app will put a community Like many organizers of today’s protest, I vigorof support at the fingertips of those who desperately ously support an open internet. But as a senator need someone to listen. representing a rural state, I am concerned that such This app is one tool in a network of support for our protests often given short shrift to ensuring all Ameriveterans and service members. cans have access to high-speed internet. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, for inToday, 34 million Americans, mostly living in rural stance, operates a Veterans Crisis Line, which can be America, lack access to high-speed broadband serreached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). vices at home. As broadband service providers (and Meanwhile, resources like Coaching Into Care offer there are nearly 2,000 primarily small providers in the support to the family and friends of veterans. EngagU.S.) weigh the profitability of making investments ing these hidden heroes is critical. in high-cost areas, fear of future shifts in the politiNationwide, there are more than 5 million military cal winds still loom large. Stated bluntly, investments caregivers responding to the needs of current and forto connect more Americans in states like mine may mer service members. And I’m proud both Aberdeen be slowed, or not made at all, if providers fear that regulators will pass new restrictions on their ability to and Rapid City have been recognized as “Hidden Heroes Cities,” joining a network of communities across recover costs and make fair profits from new infrathe country that are dedicated to increasing resources structure investments. for military and veteran caregivers. Left unchecked, some believe that the views of There is a role each of us can play to support regulators toward the online ecosystem will conservice members and their families – and I encourage tinue to shift with the federal government’s political you to with this reminder from Major Mercado, which leadership. This, in turn, creates a lack of stability both for those companies that invest in the internet’s he wrote in a 2015 editorial: “For the American public, most of whom did not participate directly in the wars metaphorical pipes and those who invest in the data in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is easy to pretend that the flowing through them. This presents a problem for fight is over?—?or to go along as if the wars never those who favor keeping the FCC’s 2015 regulatory approach and also those who want to throw it out the occurred at all. For veterans like Justin, however, the window. As one technology reporter observed earlier battle still rages, this time on the home front. His story this year about past and potential future shifts in FCC is a stark reminder of the human costs of war?—?costs easily concealed by sympathy without empathy. It deregulations, “We’re in danger of having a system that mands that we never forget, calls us all to action, and combines the worst features of a world with network reminds us of the heavy burden carried by those who neutrality and a world without it.” bore the brunt of the fight on our behalf.” The solution to this dilemma, passing enduring 20 veterans a day. 600 a month. 7,300 a year. It’s too bipartisan legislation, is obvious and — no, I’m not many. kidding — within Congress’s reach. If Democrats and Republicans have the political support to work **** Additional Notes: The Operation Zero app will together, we can together enact a framework that be available in late-July. Veterans can access the 24/7 provides the net neutrality protections wanted by so Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Caregivmany internet users, reasonably limits the whims of ers can access the Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260partisan regulators and grants the necessary flexibil3274. ity to protect consumers from future harm. On this day of action, let’s not settle for slogans, and instead demand a resolution that finds agreeSUMMER SA VINGS! ment and concludes this debate. Let’s embrace the shoes to boots idea that the internet is a symbiotic ecosystem. Many footwear experts since 1915 businesses and individuals contribute to the interFind us on: net’s success, and ultimately they need each other MEN’S & WOMEN’S Located in the to ensure that users continue to benefit from it. True supporters of a free and open internet should spend 312 W 3rd Street | Yankton their energy today driving leaders toward a lasting OFFER VALID: 7/18/17 - 7/28/17 605.665.9092 and bipartisan solution while rejecting efforts to politicize and further divide an emerging consensus about net neutrality protections. Internet Supporters Should Work Toward Bipartisan Solution By Sen. John Thune Too often, politicians and activists of all stripes prefer slogans over solutions. Today, Silicon Valley players, big and small, and many Washington, D.C.-based activist groups are leading a protest to “save net neutrality” from the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to undo regulations the agency adopted two years ago. True supporters of an open internet, however, should demand more than another slogan. What the internet needs to end regulatory uncertainty and recurring threats of litigation is an enduring, bipartisan law from Congress to protect internet freedom by codifying widely accepted net neutrality protections. Today, as we consider the future of the internet, we should also remember the history that got us here. Put in place after President Barack Obama pressured regulators to scrap efforts to find agreement, the FCC’s 2015 order regulating broadband internet under a Great Depression-era statute (“Title II” of the Communications Act of 1934) had support from just one political party. This action failed to embrace a self-evident reality — administrative rules, especially those affecting all internet users, need to have a broad consensus of support behind them in order to withstand future political changes. This reality has hit some activists too late, and others are still trying to ignore it — to the detriment of the very protections they claim to support. Although President Obama tried to justify the use of unilateral administrative action as a remedy for supposed reluctance by Congress to work together, the FCC’s partisan proceeding actually advanced, despite pleas from myself and other Republican colleagues who wanted to work with the Democrats on a new bipartisan law. The draft proposal we released more than two and a half years ago as a starting point for discussions would have outlawed the online practices of blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of legal content over broadband cable and wireless connections. It put forth a 21st century framework to protect internet freedom by ensuring that corporate owners of broadband infrastructure couldn’t use their role to manipulate the internet experience, and guaranteeing that the sometimes heavy hand of government wouldn’t itself disrupt the positive disruption that has allowed the internet to thrive for two decades. 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