PIERRE — South Dakota voters made four key decisions in the 18 months after the death of Gov. George S. Mickelson in the 1993 plane crash. Those decisions set the course for the next 20 years and brought us to where the state government is today.
It isn’t clear whether Miller, who was Mickelson’s lieutenant governor, would have become a candidate for governor otherwise. But once he was governor, Miller decided to run.
Janklow beat Miller 54 percent to 46 percent. To dilute the Pennington County vote for Miller, who was from New Underwood and represented that part of the county for 20 in the state House of Representatives, Janklow selected state Rep. Carole Hillard of Rapid City as his running mate before the primary.
Miller, meanwhile, had already chosen Steve Kirby of Sioux Falls to be lieutenant governor and his running mate.
Those decisions would be felt again in 1996, when Hillard ran for the Republican U.S. House nomination, and in 2002, when Kirby ran for the Republican nomination for governor. Both lost.
The second choice made by voters was to elect Janklow over Democrat nominee Jim Beddow of Mitchell in November. Janklow received 55.4 percent in a three-way race.
The third choice tied directly to Janklow and Beddow. Both men campaigned against a ballot measure that sought to limit property taxes at 1 percent of the property’s assessed value.
Voters rejected the initiative, barely, with 155,435 no and 152,048 yes. Both Beddow and Janklow promised to cut property taxes by 30 percent from then-current levels.
The result was a change in emphasis for school funding. Mickelson became the last governor to openly call for better pay for school teachers. One of his plans called for a state-local match that would have increased property taxes.
Democrats took the position of no new taxes and rode it to a 20-15 Senate majority for the 1993-94 term. That made Mickelson, a Republican, the last governor to face a divided Legislature.
The fourth decision voters made in the 1994 elections was to return Republicans to control of both chambers of the Legislature. Republicans have been in the majority ever since.
The fifth key decision by voters that year was to approve a constitutional amendment legalizing video lottery.
The state Supreme Court that summer had declared video lottery violated the South Dakota Constitution as an illegal form of gambling. Thousands of terminals were shut down throughout the state for months.
Miller called a special session of the Legislature to put the proposed amendment on the ballot. Legislators also adopted budget cuts to reflect the reduced revenue from the shutdown.
What came out of the combination of decisions — Janklow’s election, his promise to cut property taxes 30 percent, the related defeat of the property-tax limit, the restoration of video lottery and the Republicans’ return to full power in the Legislature — is the current school-aid formula.
The 1995 and 1996 school-funding reforms set an amount of general support per student that the Legislature would control each year. Statewide tax levies, set each year by the Legislature too, were applied for each class of property.
If a school district couldn’t generate enough from property taxes to reach the per-student target, state aid filled the rest.
The other provision was a sliding scale of additional aid for smaller school districts. The small-school factor remains in place. It gives up to a 25 percent bonus for the lowest enrollment districts.
The state’s share from video lottery net income was raised to 50 percent to help pay for the new system.