South Dakota Editorial RoundupThe worst-case scenario for the state budget will be facing the Legislature in January —state expenses are going up; revenue is going down. Facing increasing mandatory costs for programs like Medicaid and unemployment insurance, the state’s already fragile bottom line will be shaken badly.
Budget troubles will come to front burner in January
The worst-case scenario for the state budget will be facing the Legislature in January —state expenses are going up; revenue is going down.
Facing increasing mandatory costs for programs like Medicaid and unemployment insurance, the state’s already fragile bottom line will be shaken badly. Meaning, legislators are going to have to make some difficult decisions during the 2010 session to meet the constitutional requirement of balancing the state budget.
The governor has warned drastic action is needed; legislators vow to not raise taxes.
We’ve heard this song before, and it rings hollow. If the Legislature and the governor meant business, they would have ended this budget-balancing act last year or the year before. Instead, they failed to fix the structural deficit and chose to use stimulus funds and state reserves to balance the budget.
And in 2010, we expect to see a similar series of events play out. The problem, of course, will be the years after 2010 when already inadequate state reserves are gone and the stimulus is only a memory.
Already the budget sights are being set on popular programs that receive state funding — state parks, state fairs, public broadcasting and the arts.
The state had anticipated $88 million in federal stimulus funds would balance this year’s budget but Medicaid spending will eat up $29 million more than expected, leaving a fresh hole in the budget. And next year, the state is already assuming it will use $65 million in stimulus funds to solve its budget shortfall.
Gov. Rounds told The Associated Press that, when he leaves office in January 2011, he would like to have reduced the growth in spending and not have drained the state’s reserve leaving his successor with little to bank on.
The Legislature will get its first look at the governor’s proposed budget early in December. The session starts Jan. 12.
Rapid City Journal
State should be thanking Secretary of State Nelson
Last week wasn’t a great one for South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson.
Early in the week, Circuit Judge Kathleen Caldwell ruled Rep. Roger Hunt (R-Brandon Valley) did not have to disclose the name of the donor who contributed three $250,000 payments to Promising Future, a shell corporation created solely to hide the donor’s name, in support of the Yes-For-Life campaign.
Then Friday, Circuit Judge Kathleen Trandahl ruled a net total of 2,261 petition signatures — which Nelson had previously ruled invalid — were good and could be counted as part of the effort to bring the Legislature’s smoking ban to a vote of the people.
We’re guessing some in our state are quite happy with those two court decisions, just as some are not. That’s a typical outcome when you go to court, you have winners and losers.
But Nelson is nothing but a winner in our book, regardless of the court decisions.
There’s no doubt the easier route for Nelson would have been to ignore the incredible lack of transparency in the Hunt secret fund shell corporation and the lack of accuracy in the petition process in the smoking ban case. Political expediency might have demanded he look the other way, in some circles.
But instead, he did the job he was elected to do, regardless of the final outcomes and political fallout. Transparency in government and especially in the ballot process is such a precious part of our democracy. Hunt did nothing to forward that notion and the action by Nelson was necessary.
Nelson may have lost two court battles last week, but in our book he did more to help all of us win the war on transparency by taking on those battles. His efforts and the efforts of the state attorney general’s office were more than warranted. Nelson should be thanked by the citizens of this state.
Watertown Public Opinion