Local legislative delegates say budget to take up final daysA possible windfall from the federal government and a tenuous budget in general will make for an interesting final few days of the 2010 session of the state Legislature, lawmakers said at a Saturday forum in Mitchell.
By: Austin Kaus, The Daily Republic
A possible windfall from the federal government and a tenuous budget in general will make for an interesting final few days of the 2010 session of the state Legislature, lawmakers said at a Saturday forum in Mitchell.
The three legislators who represent District 20 discussed the session during the second, and final, cracker barrel forum of the season at Mitchell Technical Institute’s Technology Center. Sen. Mike Vehle, Rep. Lance Carson and Rep. Noel Hamiel — all of whom are Republicans from Mitchell — told attendees that they expect a rush as the session comes to a close.
South Dakota is approximately $40 million shy of a balanced budget for 2011. Given the unpredictable nature of budget decisions, Hamiel commented early that many issues are “unsettled.”
“A lot of business doesn’t actually get wrapped up until the final minute or two,” Hamiel said. “That’s pretty much business as usual.”
Legislators are tentatively expecting to receive approximately $36 million in federal money to assist with Medicaid costs in the state. Vehle said legislators are waiting to see if the payment transpires before making final budget decisions, so much that he expects the session to go 39 instead of 38 days.
“It’s not been an easy time,” Vehle said.
As the session began to close, Hamiel told attendees that concerns about some budget reductions, especially to education and tourism budgets, should be balanced by a realization that they may not be permanent.
“I’m trying to keep in mind that the reductions are short term in nature and not a long-term policy,” Hamiel said. “They’re a temporary reaction to an economic problem.”
“When South Dakota grows out of the present situation, we will see an increase for education (and) tourism.”
The three delegates also discussed other issues, as several the 25 or so in attendance took turns asking questions.
John Claggett, Davison County Commission member, asked the trio about HB 1202, which would deal with changes to the equalization formula in terms of assessing agricultural land.
Vehle said he initially voted against the bill because he believed the power already was in place to do some of the things the bill proposed.
“What this bill called for was the ability to go in, basically fire the equalization person and then (have) the state step in, take over the duties and send the counties a bill for equalization work,” Vehle said.
After debate, Vehle said it was realized that the powers proposed in the bill already exist, although a review of the bill’s status reveals that it still exists in a heavily-amended form.
The lawmakers also were asked about a proposal to make a funding cut to the state’s Dakota Digital Network, an interactive video communications system used by schools and government officials and often employed by many districts as an alternative to hiring teachers to instruct students in certain classes.
Concerns over the elimination of $300,000 may have been partially alleviated when Carson told attendees at Saturday’s cracker barrel that he doubted the proposal would survive.
“I believe the DDN cut will probably not stand,” Carson, a member of the House Appropriations Committee said.