GOP feud kills scholarship proposal for tech schoolsPIERRE — The Legislature’s budget panel decided Friday that South Dakota’s four technical institutes will share a one-time bonus of $500,000 in additional state funding for the coming school year.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — The Legislature’s budget panel decided Friday that South Dakota’s four technical institutes will share a one-time bonus of $500,000 in additional state funding for the coming school year.
The extra money was earmarked in the 2013 budget for state government after political gamesmanship between Republican leaders killed a scholarship plan that had bipartisan support.
Senate Republican Leader Russ Olson, of Wentworth, and House Democratic Assistant Leader Mitch Fargen, of Flandreau, had proposed $5,000 scholarships for students enrolling at technical institutes for occupations in critical need of trained workers.
The legislation, Senate Bill 77, got caught up in a much broader feud between the House and Senate over the amounts for state employee bonuses and additional one-time funding for Medicaid and public schools.
The Olson-Fargen measure was sent to a House-Senate conference committee for negotiation on the amount to be spent on the proposed Dakota Tech scholarships.
Fargen and Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, requested $1 million and, when that amount was blocked, $500,000. But the two House Republicans on the panel — Rep. Brian Gosch, of Rapid City, and Rep. Justin Cronin, of Gettysburg — didn’t want to add a new ongoing program.
Olson called their arguments “shallow” and later apologized before declaring the committee to be at an impasse Thursday night.
Senators wanted to keep the negotiations under way, and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels in his role as the Senate’s presiding officer declared Friday morning that the Legislature’s rules didn’t allow a conference committee to simply adjourn.
The Senate appropriations chairman, Republican Corey Brown, of Gettysburg, halted the budget work Friday morning until the House took action on the matter.
Those moves were for naught, as House members voted 50-19 just before lunch Friday to end the House side’s participation in the conference committee. The vote was essentially along party lines, with one Republican, Rep. Stace Nelson, of Fulton, joining the 18 Democrats present.
The House’s decision came after a declaration from Rep. Dean Wink, R-Howes, that a one-time increase of $500,000 for the technical institutes would be considered by the Joint Appropriations Committee. He is the House appropriations chairman.
Brown reconvened the joint appropriations committee at 12:44 p.m. At 1:25, Wink’s amendment came as promised. Wink said the money would be shared equally, but that point wasn’t clear from the amendment, and Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, questioned the fairness of campuses with different enrollments getting the same amounts.
Sen. Jeff Haverly, R-Rapid City, said he’d draw a letter of intent expressing the committee’s wishes how the money will be split between the schools in Mitchell, Watertown, Sioux Falls and Rapid City.