The Legislature shorted the public by rushing the new Building South Dakota plan to approval in just one week. The Legislature also shorted itself because many of the innovations never received any thorough public explanations.
For example, four legislators will be appointed to serve as nonvoting members of the state Board of Economic Development. They can monitor the actions of a panel whose 25 years of existence might be described as reclusive.
That is the new term for what essentially are tax refunds that will be available for new projects costing at least $20 million and for existing businesses that put at least $2 million into new equipment.
A key provision is that the board must determine whether the business wouldn’t have located in South Dakota without a package of local and state incentives.
It’s doubtful that many people in South Dakota know about the new roles for the four legislators or that they will be include two Democrats and two Republicans, with one apiece from each party in each chamber.
It’s also doubtful that many people know the state Senate will now hold confirmation power over the 13 voting members that the governor appoints to the state board.
And it’s likewise doubtful that many people know about the giant and positive change in government transparency contained in the legislation regarding these reinvestment payments.
As recently as the winter of 2008-09, the Rounds administration resisted revealing the names of the business projects that received permits under South Dakota’s construction-tax refund system.
It took a legal challenge by a newspaper reporter and an appeal to a state hearing officer to get the state Revenue Department to provide the identities of the permit recipients.
That victory in turn led the Legislature to require the refund amounts to also be made publicly available.
Now the Legislature is taking a much bigger step forward in regard to open government on these matters.