South Dakotans believe in self-reliance.  The pioneers who settled this state over a century ago, as well as the natives who preceded them, understood the need for self-reliance. In fact, they knew no other way. Those who came to Dakota sought freedom and a fresh start. They understood, though, that freedom requires responsibility, because they could only survive by taking care of themselves.

As a second key value, South Dakotans believe in hard work. It is simply a part of our culture. When we promote South Dakota as a good place to do business, we promote the work ethic of our people.  Those who do business in South Dakota and elsewhere will attest to the fact that South Dakotans know how to work. There’s also a sense of pride that comes with having a job to do and being able to provide for your family.

The Trump Administration recently indicated it is willing to consider state work requirements for Medicaid participants.  The federal government just approved a work requirement as part of Kentucky’s Medicaid program, and I have asked the Department of Social Services to pursue a work requirement for able-bodied adult South Dakotans enrolled in Medicaid here.

This would not apply to every South Dakotan on Medicaid. Our Medicaid program today covers roughly 82,000 children; 23,000 aged, blind or disabled persons; 1,000 pregnant women; and 13,000 very low-income parents. The work requirement would apply only to very low-income parents who aren’t already working or caring for a young child. This would place the work requirement on approximately 4,500 individuals in South Dakota.

By July 1, South Dakota will submit a proposal to seek approval for the work requirement, starting with a two-year pilot. If approved, we will begin with 1,300 Medicaid recipients who reside in Minnehaha and Pennington counties – where there is the greatest availability of employment and training resources. Pending approval, we will begin a voluntary program in these counties in July.

The Department of Labor and Regulation will enroll participants automatically for individualized employment and training services to help them find jobs. For those who earn enough to transition off of Medicaid, we will provide assistance – such as child care subsidies – to ensure their long-term success.

All work has dignity, and work is an important part of personal fulfillment. By making this adjustment to our Medicaid program, we will continue to help persons in need, while helping find jobs for those able to work, and also find that sense of pride and accomplishment which accompanies work.

20 Trillion Reasons to Reform Taxes and Mandatory Payment Programs

U.S. Senator Mike Rounds. (Official Senate Photo)

September 15, 2017
By U.S. Senator Mike Rounds

The federal government’s national debt recently surpassed $20 trillion. While there is plenty of blame to go around, the majority of this debt can be attributed to the past decade, as our debt was $10.6 trillion at the start of 2009. In other words, in the past eight years, the federal government has accrued as much debt as it accrued throughout the first 230 years of our country’s existence. It’s no wonder military leaders acknowledge it as being a top threat to our national security.  Even more frightening, there is no sign of it slowing down.

High debt threatens economic growth by driving up interest rates and discouraging businesses and individuals from investing back into the economy. And it breeds even more debt as the interest on our debt must be paid to those who hold it – leaving fewer resources for other priorities such as roads, research and education.

Our broken tax system also plays a role by limiting our ability to collect revenues. Our current tax rates create a disincentive for companies to do business here in the United States, which then leads to fewer high-paying jobs for American workers, and encourage businesses to keep their profits overseas. Lowering tax rates would incentivize companies to repatriate that money and invest it back into our economy. Earlier this year, I introduced a proposal in the Senate to lower the tax rate in each bracket. It is but one step we can take to overhaul the tax code that will provide direct, immediate relief to hardworking families, jolt our economy and increase federal revenues.

While I do believe tax cuts are an important step to controlling our debt, the biggest driver of our debt is the rapid, unchecked growth of mandatory payments on safety net programs including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. If we continue down our current path, in less than ten years 99 percent of all federal revenue will have to be spent on mandatory payments and interest on our sky-high debt. No amount of cuts to defense and other programs such as crop insurance, education, highways and bridges will have a meaningful effect on debt reduction without also controlling the cost of these mandatory payment programs.

Mandatory payments already account for nearly three-fourths of our total federal spending today. This is because Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security have never been properly managed and Congress does not currently appropriately oversee them. They run on auto-pilot. Given that they are our largest federal expenditures every year, it is time for Congress to take an active role in managing their funding levels on a regular basis. This does not necessarily mean making cuts – it simply means giving Congress the authority to review them to make them as efficient as possible and to make sure they are available for individuals who need them, both now and in the future.

Surpassing $20 trillion in debt should be a wake-up call to Washington, which for decades has failed to own up to their responsibility to balance its checkbook. I continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to shake up the budget process in Congress, and open up the entire budget to congressional review – including mandatory payments. It is the only way to slow down the fiscal train wreck. Simply delaying action and looking the other way is not an option.

Custer Rally to Protest GOP-Led Congressional Actions on Affordable Care Act – Social Security – Medicare

January 10, 2016
By Meg Schwartz

CUSTER, SD – There is a call to action from the Democratic Party for local groups to rally on January 15th in support of programs and policies that are important to all Americans.  These include the continuation and strengthening of Social Security, Medicare, affordable health care, equal rights, and much more.  For example, the GOP-led Congress is already working toward dumping the Affordable Care Act without providing a replacement plan, and that would be disastrous for millions of people.

The purpose of the gathering in Way Park on Sunday is to show our legislators – both local and national – that people support  these valuable programs, and that they shouldn’t be gutted for the sake of gaining a few dollars today.  The participants will be representing the issues that are important to them, and all are welcome.  This will be a positive rally, not a protest. We want to be constructive in our message to the people who represent us.

Social Security should not be privatized, and that the taxable income level should be increased.  Funds should also be placed back in the “lockbox” so that Congress cannot use them as a slush fund.  Medicare should be kept, with greater scrutiny of the many instances of fraud and abuse in order to make the program more financially stable.  The Affordable Care Act should be tweaked to place less of a burden on the providers, and should certainly not leave the millions of people who rely on it without coverage.

The Custer Rally will be held at:
Way Park
Corner of Mt. Rushmore Rd, and 4th Street
Custer, SD
Sunday, January 15th at 1:00 pm
Other National Rallies


Noem, Rounds and Thune Leading the Charge to Dismantle Affordable Care Act

January 9, 2017

SIOUX FALLS – The South Dakota Democratic Democratic Party released the following statement in response to the eagerness with which South Dakota’s congressional delegation is joining their fellow Washington establishment Republicans in pursuing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also know as Obamacare, without any plan to replace it:

“Instead of fulfilling their promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are going to make America sick again by offering no health care plan to the American people and actually dismantling Medicare, Medicaid as well as the ACA. Congressional Republicans, including Kristi Noem, Mike Rounds, and John Thune, are leading the charge.

“The Republican health care repeal bill will make America sick again by putting insurance companies back in charge of health care, ripping health care away from 30 million people, raising premiums, and creating chaos throughout our whole economy. Independent experts say this will take us back to the old days when insurance companies could discriminate against people, like individuals with pre-existing conditions. Health care costs for all Americans will skyrocket at the same time big corporations get a tax break.

“In South Dakota alone, repeal would mean:

  • 74,000 South Dakotans could lose health care coverage
  • 22,005 South Dakotans would lose financial assistance to cover heath care costs
  • 346,000 South Dakotans with pre-existing conditions (including asthma, diabetes, and cancer) could lose affordable coverage and women in South Dakota could be charged more for coverage due to their gender
  • 392,000 South Dakotans with private insurance, including 86,000 children, and 156,000 South Dakota seniors on Medicare will lose guaranteed access to free preventive care – including recommended cancer screenings and vaccinations
  • The Medicare “donut hole” will open once again, meaning South Dakota seniors and people with disabilities will be forced to pay thousands more for their prescriptions (South Dakotans have saved about $49 million in prescription costs thanks to the ACA closing this “donut hole”)
  • South Dakota health care providers would be faced with $260 million more in uncompensated care costs
  • South Dakota would lose 7,000 jobs, $4.2 billion in state domestic product, $7.5 billion in business productivity, and $108.4 million in state and local tax revenue

“If Kristi Noem, John Thune, Mike Rounds, and their friends in Washington have a plan to replace the ACA and avoid these disastrous effects of its repeal, they have a responsibility to tell the American people what it is. Given that they have had over 6 years to unveil an ACA replacement plan and have failed to do so we can only conclude that one does not exist. Until such a plan is released for the people of South Dakota, and the rest of America, to examine and compare with the ACA, even considering repealing the ACA is completely irresponsible, dangerous, and frankly cruel. The people of South Dakota deserve better.”