State Lawmaker Criticizes Congressman Johnson’s Peace Corps Vote

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.-A recent vote by South Dakota Congressman Dusty Johnson is causing quite a “dust up” here at home. It concerns cutting funding for the Peace Corps. Now a state lawmaker and former Peace Corps volunteer is speaking out.

“This is in Morocco, a few years ago, when I was setting up training and I was visiting the site where we’d be doing training,” said State Representative Michael Saba.

He volunteered and trained for the Peace Corps for around ten years. 

“It’s changed my life, its changed my profession and changed my outlook on the important things to do in your lifetime,” said Saba. 

So he’s shocked that U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson voted for an amendment to a bill that would eliminate all funding for the Peace Corps. 

 “Over 700 South Dakotans have served in the Peace Corps. So it’s very, very interesting and an unusual situation that he would vote to abolish it and I think he needs to reconsider the whole issue even though he’s already voted for it,” said Saba. 

The amendment failed, but Saba says he wants Johnson and others to understand the impact of the volunteer program and why they should keep it around.

“It’s a relatively inexpensive way to do foreign aid and you’re not sending money over, you’re sending American young people to help in community development, health, etc.,” said Saba. 

He was surprised by the vote because the program is generally supported by both parties. Representative Johnson wants to make it clear that he does support the Peace Corps. 

“I’ve had friends that have been in the Peace Corps. I think it adds value, but for too long in this country we have been unwilling to prioritize domestic disasters response over foreign aid,” said Johnson. 

He says the amendment was meant to start a conversation around the country’s fiscal priorities and how tax dollars should be spent. He wants to make sure domestic priorities are taken care of.

“We can do a better job of taking care of South Dakota values like disaster response and we should take care of that before sending aid to other foreign governments,” said Johnson. 

Former state senator and Peace Corps volunteer Tom Katus has also spoken out against Johnson’s vote. Both he and Saba also voiced their concerns in an op-ed to the Rapid City Journal.