SD budget approvedRepublicans defend $4.1 billion plan while Democrats seek extra for schools, Medicaid.
By: Bob Mercer, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — Working into the last hour of the main run of the Legislature’s 2013 session, nearly all of the majority Republicans stuck together and with a few Democrats combined to approve a $4.1 billion budget for state government shortly before midnight Friday.
Critics said more could be done.
Two Democrats, Rep. Susan Wismer, of Britton, and Sen. Bill Sutton, of Burke, offered identical amendments in their respective chambers to put more money into K-12 schools and Medicaid on a onetime basis.
“We may have a difference of opinion on certain things, but I believe we can do better,” Sutton said.
Republican Sen. Tim Rave, of Baltic, defended the decision to keep $1.7 million unobligated because of the potential impacts of federal cuts rather than spend every dollar. “As the saying goes, a million here, a million there, pretty soon you’re talking real money,” Rave said. The session had a different tone that showed at times a two-party government in South Dakota can work, said Senate Democratic leader Jason Frerichs, of Wilmot.
On the other hand, he found hard to swallow a $500,000 increase in the Legislature’s own budget.
“Five thousand dollars per legislator of travel money that goes through. That’s a little disappointing,” Frerichs said.
Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Tea, said he would have to go home and talk to people on “the hard right” about whether the budget is right for South Dakota.
“Is there pork? Pork is a matter of perspective,” Otten said. “We all can find fault, but I think we’ve got legislation here.”
The Senate gave final approval 31-4 at 11:40 p.m. Central time.
Most of Friday was spent in long delays.
House members began debating the general budget bill at 9:40 p.m. as Gov. Dennis Daugaard and key members of his administration watched from the gallery.
They spent the next 36 minutes arguing whether it was good enough.
State aid to public schools, special education and state employee payroll will increase by 3 percent, and state payments to Medicaid providers also will go up by about 3 percent, according to Rep. Fred Romkema, R-Spearfish.
He is the chairman of the Joint Committee on Appropriations that sifted through 74 amendments Friday.
He described the budget as “very, very prudent. Fiscally conservative.”
Wismer said the per-student allocation for general education will still be $17 behind where it stood five years ago.
She said that legislators citing fear of federal cuts were betting against the nation and against South Dakota.
Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, said “the issue of the day” was $20 million of additional funding necessary to shore up the health program for state government’s 14,500 employees.
The House vote was 48-17 in favor. Five Republicans voted against and one Democrat voted for it.
Democrat Rep. Kathy Tyler, of Big Stone City, said the 2011 education cuts were “unnecessary.”
On the other side was Democratic Rep. Spencer Hawley, of Brookings, who described it as a step in the right direction. He said lawmakers need to talk “long term” about getting back to the pre-2011 base.
Rep. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said, “We can do better,” while Rep. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg, said the two political sides worked together throughout most of the legislative session.
“We come out here and do our job as best we can,” Cronin said.