Week 6 of the 9 week session is now over, with 24 days down and 14 to go.
So these last 3 weeks of session is where we start prioritizing spending. Education and healthcare remain top priorities for the caucus. We find ourselves balancing these needs against bolstering reserve funds in anticipation of sequestration cuts and supporting economic development.
While it might not seem important now, the cuts coming from Washington weigh heavily on all of us here in Pierre.
As our session comes to a close, we will hear what cuts will be coming as Congress continues to fight over our spending. If we don’t prepare, we could be called into special session to alter our budget due to our federal government's inability to pass their own budget.
Good Stewardship of your tax dollars at the state level require careful and responsible management, including keeping our budget structurally balanced, and looking to promote future growth through economic development.
School funding is certainly many topics of discussion this session with many bills going through the process trying to get more money in the K-12 system. Unfortunately, this important decision is typically made toward the very end of the session.
We know that schools are struggling to make up for the budget cuts of past years. A component of school funding which was recently brought to the Legislature’s attention in SB15 is the depletion of the Extraordinary Cost Fund used for students with special needs.
This is a fund which local school districts can apply to when they have costs which exceed the school’s special education levy.
In South Dakota, there are 18,026 children who qualify to receive special education services. This represents 14.3 percent of all of our students and is an increase of 7.1 percent over a 10-year period. These statistics were taken from the National Center for Education Statistics.
The proposal of this bill from the SD Department of Education would shift even more of the funding formula for special needs toward the local taxpayer and away from the state government’s responsibility. They are proposing an increase in the local effort levy for special education from $1.2 to $1.3 and in turn decreasing the state’s share from 42.41 percent to 39.3 percent by 2015.
Also dealing with education funding, I have introduced Senate Bill 76 which will put funding into the Education Service Agencies which is administered by Northwest Area Schools. This bill has been through many revisions. It passed out of the Senate Education Committee and is currently sitting in the Senate Appropriations Committee waiting for funding.
I also introduced Senate Bill 80, which will be up in House Education this week, Wednesday, for a hearing; it has already passed the Senate. This bill will reinstate the accounting procedures our schools use to account for impact aid funding. This language was taken out of statute this past session in 2012. This bill will reinstate those laws.
This past week in Senate, we passed Senate Bill 195 to help restart wind energy projects. The Senate passed this bill out of committee to provide up-front money as an incentive on wind energy projects.
South Dakota is a very wind-rich state with the potential for continued expansion. With the Obama Administration blocking projects such as the Big Stone II expansion, which would have provided expanded infrastructure for wind energy transmission capability, it falls to states to help wind facilities develop and expand.
This week, the Senate took swift action to expand our 2nd Amendment rights through Senate Bill 166 on Concealed Weapon Permits. It passed the State Affairs committee on an 8-0 vote, and passed unanimously on Senate floor. This measure revises the years that a concealed weapon permit is valid; reducing the bureaucracy that citizens face in obtaining and maintaining a concealed weapon permit. This measure is now on to the House.
Currently, we’re coming up on a vote for Senate Joint Resolution which increases the vote required to raise taxes. Senate Taxation passed this measure as amended 6-1, and it will be an amendment to Article 9 of the state constitution. This will require the support of two thirds of voters to increase or impose new taxes – protecting your hard earned paycheck from anyone who tries to raise your taxes.
It provides a better level of consistency, and matches the number of votes that it requires in the legislature.
SB 51 is a bill that has to do with the Retailers Collection Allowance. In 2006, the legislature decided that as soon as the Tax Relief Fund reached $10 million, Retailers would be eligible for a reimbursement from that fund to mitigate the cost of collecting and submitting sales taxes. This reimbursement, or “collection allowance,” would have originally been a cost to the state of $6.4 million. SB 15, however, asks city governments to pick up $1.5 million of the tab, which is not necessarily a cost to the city so much as it is a source of revenue that they will no longer collect.
An amendment is on the table that would not require the municipalities to cover this $1.5 million, which would then require the state to pick up the full bill.
I feel it is only fair the state covers the whole collection allowance because that was the original deal. It is important to note that municipalities are already paying $3 million per year to the business tax fund in order to help process the collection of sales, use, and contractor’s excise taxes. This bill has put us between a rock and a hard place because the state is not paying the amount that was agreed upon.
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the Joint Appropriations Committee heard from the department of Tribal Relations. The mission of this Division is to establish and maintain a positive working relationship between Native American South Dakota citizens and all other parts of government. Tribal Relations was also established to secure and coordinate federal, state, and local resources to advocate for the Native American population.
This is a relatively new department instituted by Governor Daugaard, which has been very successful in building relationships with our tribes.
Please keep in touch on the issues and feel free to contact me at (605) 850-3598 or at my legislative email firstname.lastname@example.org my person email address is email@example.com. I enjoy the chance to serve as an elected official in your citizen Legislature. As always you can follow everything online at http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2013/index.aspx