SD State Legislature Candidate Survey: Jeff Bathke
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Jeff Bathke is running in the Republican primary for South Dakota State House District 20. Bathke faces two primary opponents, Ben Krohmer and Lance Koth.
1. Tell us about yourself?
- I am a graduate of Plankinton High School and received my Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees from the University of South Dakota. My wife, Michelle and I have lived in Mitchell since returning from college in 1995. We have three grown children and are expecting our second grandchild in August! I am currently the Emergency Management and Planning & Zoning Director for Davison County and own rental and development property. I am a proud Veteran with over 30 years of service and am currently a Command Sergeants Major in the Army Reserve, assigned to the 1-100th in Knoxville, TN. I have served in several countries and completed two deployments. My most recent tour was in 2020-2021 in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan.
2. Why are you running for this office?
- I have always been interested, but the timing was never right. Now it is. I also feel we need strong leadership, with experience. I have worked for federal, state, and local governments for most of my career. The experience I have gained over the last 27 years gives me the ability to hit the ground running on some of the very important issues facing District 20 and the great State of South Dakota. Being on the receiving end of regulation and government oversight is not always easy. I will try to do what is best for South Dakota, not create legislation that puts additional burdens such as non-funded mandates on municipalities and counties.
3. What would be your top three priorities if elected?
- Increase opportunities for economic development. Agriculture is key to the livelihood of the small businesses we support. As the Planning and Zoning Director, I try to promote opportunities for young farmers to make a living by expanding the family operation. The agriculture economy has a ripple effect that rolls down to most other small businesses we support.
- Infrastructure funding-HB1033 provided $200,000,000 to the SD Housing Development Authority for grants or loans to municipalities to assist with infrastructure costs, which will ease the new development burden for workforce housing, spurring development. As the Davison County Planning & Zoning Director, I support continued growth, which equalizes the property tax burden for all residents. I would like to encourage developers in District 20 to access these funds to increase the tax base.
- Veteran Care-Recently the Federal Government announced a plan to reduce services in Wagner, Hot Springs, and Ft. Meade. We have 1,620 Veterans in District 20 (134 in Jerauld, 179 in Sanborn, and 1,307 in Davison), including myself, who rely on medical care at a VA facility. As a Veteran, I will work closely with the Department of the Military and the Veterans Service Officers to protect these facilities
4. What relevant experience would you bring to the office?
- I have worked for federal, state, and local governments for over 27 years. I have worked for or with several federal agencies, state agencies, counties, and municipalities. I have experience in Legislation, Administrative Rules, and Local Ordinances.
5. Do you support tax relief for South Dakotans? If so, what type and how would you make it happen?
- As a politician, it is easy to say you will cut taxes until it’s time to cut taxes. Where will you cut? Quit plowing snow and repairing roads? Lay off teachers and Law Enforcement Officers? Increase the teacher-to-student ratio? I would rather support the continued growth of property and tourism, which will generate additional property and sales tax revenue. Once you initiate a relief, it would be very difficult to reinstate.
6. Housing availability has become an issue for many South Dakotans. How would you seek to make housing more affordable?
- HB1033 provided $200,000 to the SD Housing Development Authority for grants or loans to municipalities to assist with infrastructure costs, which will ease the new development burden for workforce housing, spurring development. Recruiting employees to your area is difficult, and even worse without affordable housing options. In the last nine years, I have been involved in over $84 million in rural construction projects in Davison County alone; not including the municipalities.
7. South Dakota correctional facilities have been dealing with a number of issues, most prominent among them overcrowding and staffing shortages. What would you do to help combat these issues?
- I have over sixteen years of experience as a licensed counselor in the Department of Corrections facilities; including adults, adolescents, males, females, prisons, and parole. Governor Noem and Acting Secretary Doug Clark have made significant changes over the last several months and I am excited to see where Secretary of Corrections Wasko takes the Department. However, when legislation pushes inmates from prison to county jail, the counties bear the cost, which is a major concern for county budgets. It has been over 10 years since SB70 changed the philosophy on incarceration. The entire system could benefit from an in-depth review.
8. What steps should the legislature take to entice young people to remain in the state?
- Increased wages and affordable housing can retain current residents as well as attract new residents. The best way to increase wages is to encourage the expansion of business, and reasonable taxes. The insane thought of increasing taxes on businesses only lowers investment in employee salaries and increases the cost of the product. Another idea is to increase incentives to attend Technical Schools. Many of the programs have exceptional local placement rates, with high-paying positions.
9. Do you support any changes to the way elections are run in South Dakota?
- I am confident the SD Election process is legitimate. I work in the courthouse and see the safeguards on a daily basis. Paper ballots, with tabulation machines unable to be connected to the internet, ensure the votes are accurate. Voter ID requirement ensures the identity of the voter. Unfortunately, I do not feel other states are as secure as South Dakota. In Iraq, we assisted setting up the new government and require each voter to have their index finger inked after they vote. We hold a higher standard for Iraq than we do for ourselves.
10. A U.S. Supreme Court decision is looming on a landmark abortion case that could ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade. Governor Kristi Noem has indicated she would like to ban abortion outright, and a “trigger law” already on the books would do so, with only an exception in place when the mother’s life is at risk. Do you support banning abortion to this extent? If not, what exceptions would you like to see made?
- Roe v. Wade changed the way states can regulate abortion and characterized abortion as something that was covered under constitutional rights of privacy. If the Supreme Court reverses the decision and does not regulate abortion at the Federal Level, South Dakota will be one of the most difficult places to get an abortion. I will support any legislation to ban abortions, with the exception of the risk of life to the mother. An average of 378 abortions are performed in SD each year. That’s a little over one baby per day.
11. What is your stance on legalized, recreational marijuana in South Dakota?
- We are all in the process of preparing for the cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensing of Medical Cannabis. Cities and counties across the state have or need to create ordinances to regulate the industry. Recreational will eventually be legal. The taxation of cannabis will need to be fairly distributed at the local level to ease the additional costs attributed to the industry. Personally, after working several years in Correctional Facilities, I am not supportive of recreational marijuana. When it comes to a choice of food on the table or buying marijuana, the marijuana will win. However, knowing it will eventually be available, we need to focus on how to regulate the industry, rather than fight it.
State legislative candidates in contested districts this primary season were emailed the same survey to complete for Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory News. Candidates were asked to keep their responses limited to roughly 4-5 sentences for each question. With the exception of a quick spelling and grammar check, answers were not edited by the poster. Those who responded to the survey questions had their results posted.”
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