Home > SD 2014 Ballot, South Dakota > Ryan Brunner at the Brown County Fair seeking votes for Commissioner of School and Public Lands

Ryan Brunner at the Brown County Fair seeking votes for Commissioner of School and Public Lands

August 22, 2014
Republican candidate for Commissioner of School and Public Lands Ryan Brunner at the Brown County Fair. Photo by Ken Santema

Republican candidate for Commissioner of School and Public Lands Ryan Brunner at the Brown County Fair. Photo by Ken Santema

In a continuation of my chats with candidates I took some time to talk with Ryan Brunner. Brunner is the Republican candidate for Commissioner of School and Public Lands, and currently serves as the Deputy Commissioner. The previously elected commissioner, Jared Johnson, stepped down in 2013 to spend time with his family. In the interim veteran statesman Vern Larson has been acting as the Commissioner. Brunner’s opponent this fall will be Libertarian candidate John English.

Before going into my chat with Brunner, I would like to mention that he is perhaps the hardest working candidate I’ve seen in a long time. It is difficult to think of many events over the last few months where I haven’t run into him at. He is out meeting people and making sure he is visible to voters. This is pretty remarkable since his Republican opposition, Representative Jim Bolin, dropped out of the race last October. From October of last fall until the South Dakota Libertarian Party state convention this month Brunner had no announced or expected opposition. The Libertarian candidate English is going to have to work hard to catch up with Brunner. That doesn’t necessarily mean Brunner is a better candidate, just that he has one heck of a head start and has shown a willingness to meet voters.

When asked about his top priorities Brunner said he wants to work closely with the oil and gas industries. This is an area he sees great potential for revenue growth. At the same time said he will work to make sure the oil and gas companies are putting land back into the state it was previously to an oil or gas operation coming in. Brunner mentioned there has been about a 14.5% increase in oil and gas payout to the state.

Brunner said his goal is to provide steady and consistent revenue for schools in South Dakota. To those ends he will focus on all three revenue realms of the School and Public Lands (S&PL). Mineral rights is the first realm. He is working on that, as noted above, by working with the oil and gas companies.

The second revenue stream for S&PL is investments. We didn’t talk about this portion of the job too much, perhaps I’ll follow-up with him later in the election season. Brunner did note that investments have been doing very well for the S&PL.

Finally, the third revenue stream for S&PL is surface rents. This is an other area Brunner has seen the State of SD doing well at. In fact he says there has been a 34% increase in surface rents revenue over the last two years. I’ve heard a good number of farmers complain that some people are getting special deals when renting from the S&PL and asked him to address that. He said the rents all happen at public auction. There is a formula used by the S&PL to ensure a minimum price is met, but after that it is up to whoever shows up at the auction to determine the price paid for rent. Part of the way Brunner hopes to increase the revenue from surface rents is to focus on three types of improvements: water access, road access, and fences. Brunner noted that land getting low rents are usually missing one or all of those important improvements. S&PL has been working to expand those improvements on land it owns, and Brunner hopes to continue doing so.

To finish off this conversation I asked about the non-revenue parts of S&PL. Specifically I am worried about the hundred or so dams that S&PL is in charge of. Many of them were put in as public works projects back in the 1930’s and 1940’s and have had little or no maintenance since then. Brunner said he will continue to fight for appropriations to maintain the dams. The problem for S&PL is that none of the revenue they bring in goes to maintain the assets owned by S&PL. The normal legislative appropriations process is used for that. I agree with that being the case, but it does make it tough for a Commissioner of S&PL to get money to maintain something nobody is worried about. This is an area that will be a true test of Brunner’s effectiveness if elected to the Commissioner position.

Overall I think Brunner is a good fit for the office. But I have yet to really speak with Libertarian candidate John English. I will wait until that time to see who I like better running for the Commissioner position. Or perhaps they both will be a good fit, and we will have at least one election that isn’t simply the lesser of two evils.

PS. I still find it odd the Democrat Party didn’t try harder to get someone to run for this position. There is no incumbent, and the Republican candidate is young and potentially vulnerable against a seasoned politician.

%d bloggers like this: