Unlike last year, SD officials will have money to spend, say local representativesLocal legislators expect the 2012 legislative session to begin and likely end on a positive note. South Dakota’s 35-day legislative session begins Tuesday at in the Capitol building in Pierre. Gov. Dennis Daugaard will present the State of the State address at 1 p.m.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
Local legislators expect the 2012 legislative session to begin and likely end on a positive note.
South Dakota’s 35-day legislative session begins Tuesday at in the Capitol building in Pierre. Gov. Dennis Daugaard will present the State of the State address at 1 p.m.
“I think it’s going to be a lot more pleasant than it was last year,” said Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell. “There’ll still be money issues, but last year it was where to cut and how much. This year we have more money so it’s going to be, ‘How do we divvy up the money we have?”
Reps. Lance Carson, R-Mitchell, and Tona Rozum, R-Mitchell, agree this year’s session will be much less stressful and allow legislators to better focus on how to move the state forward.
Vehle said since legislators won’t have to cut so much from the budget, they can spend more time on where to place extra funds.
Daugaard proposed some money to be directed to school districts in the form of a 2.3 percent boost in state aid and a 0.7 percent one-time increase. The 2.3 percent will amount to $9.8 million in the 2012-13 school year and the 0.7 percent will total $4 million to help districts pay for operating expenses.
“It’s going to be a pretty positive thing,” Carlson said. “I think it’s a great step forward.”
Carson is happy to see that some of that money will likely be spent on furthering teachers’ educations.
Rozum praised Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp, saying she’s doing a “very good job.”
“She’s got a really good handle on how we need to make education more productive,” Rozum said. “I’m quite excited about her position.”
Daugaard has also proposed a 3 percent-across-the-board increase for state employees, who have not received a salary increase for three years.
Carson said the salary increase will be a good thing, but Rozum and Vehle said there are still a lot of questions to be answered. Vehle said many are questioning how the 3 percent should be paid and whether the 5 percent bonus should be given on merit.
“I question the 5 percent bonus portion of it,” Rozum said. “I’ll have to listen to it more carefully” during the session.
Carson, who is on the Appropriations Committee, said Sunday he does not have any bills he plans to introduce.
Rozum said she has a few she’s working on, but didn’t want to elaborate.
Vehle said he’s working on bills about sexting and enhancing the state transportation system. He introduced a bill about sexting last year, but is working to improve it. He said a subcommittee made up of state’s attorneys worked on the specifics and “I think we’ve got something for this year.”
He’s also advocating for matching the 3 percent excise tax on vehicles to sales tax, which is 4 percent.
“Cars should be taxed at the same rate as everything else in the state, which is 4 percent,” he said. “It raises about $19 million to $20 million, which is way short of what we need to put in every day.”
All three legislators also expect the legislative session will include a lot of discussion on the K-12 budget and Medicaid funding.
Carson said he’s concerned about how the Legislature will be able to fund its portion of Medicaid. He said the state will have to pay 4 percent more this year due to federal government budget cuts.
Rozum hopes education funding will become a priority this year, and that the state gets a better hold on how to handle that budget.
Vehle remains optimistic regarding the whole session.
“I expect it to end pretty harmoniously,” he said. “But you never know.”