Legislators say budget concerns lingerDistrict 20 state Rep. Lance Carson expressed his concern Thursday about balancing South Dakota’s budget in the future if the economic recovery stalls.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
District 20 state Rep. Lance Carson expressed his concern Thursday about balancing South Dakota’s budget in the future if the economic recovery stalls.
“We’ve relied heavily on our ag economy to carry us through this recession, and it has,” said Carson, a Republican from Mitchell.
But Carson told the roughly 70 people in attendance Thursday at the annual Planning and Development District III Legislative Dinner at the Mitchell Technical Institute Technology Center that if the mild winter leads to drought conditions “we could have major problems balancing our budget in the future.”
Carson was joined by two other state legislators, Rep. Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland, and Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, at Thursday’s event, which was attended by current and former community leaders and gave state legislators the opportunity to discuss their work during the 2012 legislative session. The session’s last day is Monday, when legislators will consider the governor’s vetoes.
Hunhoff expressed her disappointment with the teaching-reforms bill, House Bill 1234, which has been signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
“It’s not what we wanted,” she said. “I wanted it to be a study and to get the teachers involved.”
Hunhoff also had concerns about the funding for the bill, which sets up a merit pay system that rewards the top 20 percent of teachers, based on evaluations and student assessment, and provides special incentives for new teachers in math and science.
All three legislators expressed concern about maintaining a healthy state budget, and not relying on federal money.
“We need to get our federal budget in line,” Carson said, warning of future budget cuts by the federal government of more than $48 million. “At some point, that bill is going to come due.”
Kloucek also remarked on the state’s relationship with the federal government.
“We bash the federal government and say they’re wasteful, but we rely as much on them as we do on drinking water to survive in South Dakota,” he said.
Kloucek expressed his displeasure with the continued budget cuts toward infrastructure in rural areas, in particular the potential closure of rural post offices by the U.S. Postal Service.
“It will be devastating to rural America,” Kloucek said, saying it is “atrocious” the postal service is forced to pay for the retirement benefits of its employees upfront.
Kloucek was disappointed in the Legislature’s failure to pass a bill providing additional funding to workers with Veterans’ Services.
“Our state needs to step up to the plate and support our veterans,” he said. The bill in question would have provided more than $160,000 to Veterans’ Services in counties across the state.
Carson, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he never heard from a county commissioner expressing a need for additional funding for Veterans’ Services, but Kloucek objected to that.
“You did not hear the message, you did not listen,” he said to Carson.
“I’ve been in the Legislature for 22 years, and every year seems like it’s a new challenge,” Kloucek said. “We don’t always get it right, but I do think that we’re trying to make South Dakota better one way or another.”
State Rep. Lance Carson, R-Mitchell, left, gives his closing remarks Thursday evening at the Planning and Development District III Legislative Dinner at the MTI Technology Center in Mitchell. Other state legislators in attendance were Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, middle, and Rep. Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland, right.