At halfway mark, South Dakota lawmakers focus on the money
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota lawmakers said they would turn their focus to the state budget this week as they hit the halfway mark in the 2020 session, though Republicans and Democrats laid out different visions of how to use that money.
Legislators settled on roughly $1.74 billion in revenue to use in setting the state budget — an increase of $19 million from Gov. Kristi Noem’s projection in December. Once combined with federal funding and other state funds, the budget will likely total more than $5 billion.
But Democrats, who hold just three spots on the committee that decides the size of the budget, were not pleased with the final projections, saying Republicans were being too cautious with the estimates.
Democrats want the state to fund inflationary pay increases for teachers, state employees and service care providers. They are also asking Republican colleagues, who hold a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature, to consider making a one-time allotment of $32 million from the state’s education trust fund.
It’s a move they hope will show voters in November’s election there should put a few more “D’s” on the Legislature’s roster.
“There’s only one party that’s addressing education funding in Pierre,” said Rep. Ryan Cwach, a Yankton Democrat.
Democrats hold the fewest numbers of seats in the Capitol since the 1950′s, meaning they have to win Republican support for any proposal.
Republicans said they are doing a fine job running things, though they will also be paying close attention to the budget process now that revenue figures are set.
Sen. Jim Bolin, a Canton Republican, said balancing the budget and maintaining the “basic programs” of state government would ensure they retain their traditional dominance.
The state’s constitution requires a balanced budget. Bolin said the state’s fiscal conservatism and low taxes are good for business.
Legislators will get one more glimpse of how much money to expect when revenue reports come in the last few weeks of the session. So far this year, revenue has been higher than expected, but spring flooding is looming over the state’s agriculture industry, leading some lawmakers to be cautious about the state’s financial outlook.