Republicans meet to discuss ways to balance state budgetPIERRE — Several Republicans — including two from District 20 — said Thursday they believe all state programs should be considered for cuts as the Legislature discusses ways to balance the state budget.
By: Korrie Wenzel, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — Several Republicans — including two from District 20 — said Thursday they believe all state programs should be considered for cuts as the Legislature discusses ways to balance the state budget.
During a meeting with members of the South Dakota Newspaper Association, House Majority Leader Bob Faehn, RWatertown, said “I don’t know that anything is off-limits” when it comes to proposals to trim the budget.
Later in the day, Sen. Mike Vehle and Rep. Lance Carson, both of whom are Republicans from Mitchell, said they agree.
“I believe everything is open,” said Carson, who added that he has been pleased so far with suggestions from state department heads and others. “Everything needs to be looked at harder.”
Vehle said he agrees, but “that doesn’t mean you have to cut it.”
“You have to say it’s on the table,” he said, acknowledging that some programs would be difficult to cut. “Maybe there’s some savings to be had. Maybe there’s something we can do more economically and more efficiently. I think everything should be on the table.”
Lawmakers are deep in discussion about ways to cut the state budget, which is looking at a shortfall of more than $30 million for fiscal year 2011 and as much as $110 million by 2012 if revenues do not increase.
The problem, according to Vehle, is that finding cuts in the state’s billion-dollar budget isn’t easy, considering 51 percent of the budget is dedicated to education and 34 percent is dedicated to Medicaid. Those two needs equal 85 percent, leaving just 15 percent of the budget to find $30 million in cuts.
Vehle said solutions need to be found or the trouble will compound in the coming years.
Rep. Noel Hamiel, RMitchell, also said the 2010 legislative session is vital. Without cuts, solutions or a combination thereof, he said the state’s financial woes will get worse.
“Absolutely,” he said. “And that’s why most of us want to balance the budget without taking money out of reserve funds. If we can find $32 million or $34 million in cuts and not take that money out of reserves next year when the projected shortfall is $110 million, we can put that $32 million (in potential savings this year) in with what’s left in reserve funds and be in a lot better shape.
“If you don’t make cuts this year, next year you won’t have enough money in reserve funds to get the job done. It’s not rocket science. That doesn’t mean it won’t be painful, but it’s why we need to find some savings this year.”
Hamiel, however, said he doesn’t consider everything “on the table” and under consideration for cuts.
“I don’t think roads and bridges ought to be on the table. We’ve already dug a deep hole in that area. And Medicaid is not on the table,” he said. “I think it would be better to say most everything is being looked at to see if we can not necessarily cut, but hold the line.”