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Red States Fight Growing Efforts To Give "Basic Income" Cash To Residents

•, By Kevin Hardy

"I don't bring a ton of legislation," said Wiik, a Republican. "The main thing I like to do is try and stay ahead of trends and try and prevent bad things from coming into our state."

This session, that meant sponsoring successful legislation banning cities or counties from creating basic income programs, which provide direct, regular cash payments to low-income residents to help alleviate poverty.

While Wiik isn't aware of any local governments publicly floating the idea in South Dakota, he describes such programs as "bureaucrats trying to hand out checks to make sure that your party registration matches whoever signed the checks for the rest of your life."

The economic gut punch of the pandemic and related assistance efforts such as the expanded child tax credit popularized the idea of directly handing cash to people in need. Advocates say the programs can be administered more efficiently than traditional government assistance programs, and research suggests they increase not only financial stability but also mental and physical health.

Still, Wiik and other Republicans argue handing out no-strings-attached cash disincentivizes work — and having fewer workers available is especially worrisome in a state with the nation's second-lowest unemployment rate.

South Dakota is among at least six states where GOP officials have looked to ban basic income programs.

The basic income concept has been around for decades, but a 2019 experiment in Stockton, California, set off a major expansion. There, 125 individuals received $500 per month with no strings attached for two years. Independent researchers found the program improved financial stability and health, but concluded that the pandemic dampened those effects.