Senator John Thune, Sioux Falls Argus LeaderIt’s been a year since I was sworn-in to serve the people of South Dakota in the United States Senate and it has been an honor for me to represent the people of this great state in that great and hallowed chamber. Looking back, this has been a year filled with many legislative accomplishments that directly benefit South Dakotans.
For too long, a comprehensive energy and ethanol bill was being blocked. This was the issue that triggered my entry into last year’s Senate race. With fuel costs rising, this bill’s passage could not have come soon enough. This legislation addresses long term energy costs including dramatic increases in ethanol production that will benefit South Dakota’s economy. The recently-announced construction of ethanol plants near Mitchell and Redfield is a testament to the importance of federal ethanol legislation to our farm economy. More generally, the new energy policy means Americans will be less dependent on foreign sources of oil, which will improve our economy and environment.
This year also saw the passage of a highway bill, which had been delayed for over two years. Working closely with the state delegation, we were able to secure $1.3 billion for South Dakota. For specific projects across the state, I was able to secure $150 million in addition to the $75 million secured by Senator Johnson and the $25 million by Representative Herseth. By working together, our delegation was able see that South Dakota received a 30 percent increase in its federal transportation funding over the last highway bill.
After years of delay, the Senate also acted to protect the firearms industry from frivolous lawsuits. Suing the firearms industry for crimes committed by criminals was not only illogical, but extremely expensive as it drove up insurance premiums for many in the industry including dozens of gun and ammunition companies based in South Dakota. I cosponsored this legislation to help protect more than 500 jobs here in our state as well as the Second Amendment.
The biggest victory of the year—saving Ellsworth Air Force Base—was due to a team effort and the quality of the men and women who call Ellsworth home. Ellsworth’s military value is second to none and will positively impact South Dakota’s economy for years to come. Now that Ellsworth is open and operational, it is important to find it an additional mission to assist keeping America safe and secure.
There were many other accomplishments this year like the confirmation of Judge Roberts and several other qualified judges that had been needlessly blocked, but instead of looking back, it is important to look forward.
One only has to open the paper or turn on the nightly news to recognize that our bloated government bureaucracy is ripe for reform. In the future, I look forward to tackling issues like budget and tax reform. I look forward to passing a farm bill that puts family farms ahead of corporate farms. Improving our education system by demanding results and improving health care, especially rural health care, not only makes sense, but will improve lives. Equipping our troops with the tools they need to win the war on terror not only saves American lives, but will cripple our enemies sooner.
As Americans, we fundamentally believe that we can change things for the better and that is exactly what I will continue to do on your behalf in the Unites States Senate.