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Gov. Dennis Daugaard proposes spending hikes in final budget

Retiring Gov. Dennis Daugaard proposed spending increases Tuesday for education, state employees and Medicaid providers in his final budget proposal as governor.

The Republican recommended a nearly $1.7 billion general fund budget for the upcoming 2020 budget year during his last budget proposal and farewell address to the South Dakota Legislature. The budget lays the groundwork for GOP Gov.-elect Kristi Noem, who will formulate her own proposal to be debated in the upcoming legislative session.

Daugaard's proposal for the 2020 budget year that starts July 1 envisions roughly $53 million in spending hikes, including 2.3 percent increases for education, Medicaid providers and state workers.

"We've been fortunate in South Dakota to have many governors and many legislators of both parties who have kept our finances on track for years, and I hope we never take that for granted," Daugaard said.

Noem said there may be a few changes from Daugaard's plan for K-12, Medicaid providers and state employees, but she didn't anticipate a major shift from his proposal. Noem said she'll be working on her budget plan over the rest of December.

Daugaard expects state collections for the current budget year, which started July 1, will be down slightly compared to lawmakers' projections. He's also projecting lower state expenses than anticipated.

While some revenue sources aren't performing as expected, overall ongoing state collections for the first four months of the current budget year are about $3 million, or 0.5 percent, higher than lawmakers previously anticipated.

Daugaard is proposing emergency expenses for the current state budget year, including $7.4 million to expand the Jameson Annex at the South Dakota State Penitentiary, roughly $3.9 million for a National Guard Readiness Center and $2.3 million for a litigation fund.

Daugaard's plan for next budget year calls for spending nearly $1.75 billion in federal funds, over $1.4 billion in other state money and about $1.7 billion in general funds, totaling over $4.8 billion.

Noem will be sworn in to office Jan. 5. The Legislature will reshape the current budget and approve the next one during the session that begins in January.

"This governor has always prioritized fiscal responsibility, and he's built a strong foundation here of doing that again in this budget," Noem said.

Daugaard's final budget proposal is getting a mixed review from South Dakota Democrats.

Democratic Party Executive Director Sam Parkinson said in a Tuesday statement that Democrats can support funding hikes for public schools, state employees and community support providers.

But Parkinson says the budget plan is "most notable for what's not there," including a lack of new funding for early childhood education and needs-based scholarships. Parkinson called it a "politics-as-usual approach."

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer, a Republican, says it will be interesting to compare and contrast the new governor's wishes with Daugaard's proposal. Langer says Daugaard has done a "great job as our governor."

Terry Peak to open this weekend
Early snow has crews prepping

With the Black Hills looking more like the inside of a snow globe every day, the unofficial start to winter has arrived as Terry Peak Ski Area plans to open this weekend.

"It's a really good forecast for making snow right now," said Linda Derosier, Terry Peak marketing director, on Tuesday. "We've received 27 inches since Nov. 1."

The mountain near Lead — which Derosier said drew 100,000 trips down the ski runs last winter — will open for Friday, Saturday and Sunday before closing again next week. The peak will open for good — seven days a week — beginning Friday, Dec. 14.

Crews are now manufacturing snow to add to the natural accumulation, a reality given the varied climate in the Black Hills.

"Because of our banana belt weather, we know the man-made snow can hold up better and longer than natural snow," Derosier said.

Terry Peak's peak attendance, Derosier said, will come the week between Christmas and New Year's. Beginning the weekend before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Terry Peak will host its first Jammin' the Peak Music Series event. A live band plays from 2 to 6 p.m., with a special "night ski" from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

This weekend, Stewart Lift, Snow Carpet, and Surprise Lifts will operate and discounted tickets will be sold at Stewart Lodge.

Last month, the new owners of Deer Mountain — also called Mystic Miner Ski Area — said they plan to clean up the ski hill and sell to new buyers. They did not have any plans to be open for skiing this season.

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Sheridan Lake Road project gets green light from county commission

The Sheridan Lake Road reconstruction project got another green light forward Tuesday from the Pennington County Board of Commissioners. 

Mark Schock, assistant superintendent of the county's highway department, gave the board an update during the regular commission meeting at the Pennington County Administration Building in Rapid City. 

He asked the board to advise if it had any changes in the current project's designs. Commissioners ultimately voted 4-1 to move forward with the county's current plans and give a vote of confidence to the highway department. Commissioners Lloyd LaCroix, Mark DiSanto, Deb Hadcock and Ron Buskerud voted in favor of the motion. Commissioner George Ferebee was the lone vote against approval. 

The approximately $20 million project will reconstruct, realign, and add curb and gutter to various sections of the 12-mile long road connecting U.S. Highway 385 to Rapid City.

The current plan's designs call for three, 12-foot-wide driving lanes with curb, gutter, storm sewer and grading for sidewalks from Albertta Drive west to Spring Canyon Trail; two 12-foot driving lanes with curb, gutter and storm sewer on the north side of the road between Norsemen Lane and Victoria Lake Road; and two, 12-foot driving lanes with four-foot shoulders in most areas for the remainder of the project. 

Schock's information included an update on complaints and concerns from county residents who have been addressed by the county Highway Department, and right-of-way acquisitions from landowners, which Schock said are about 50 percent completed. 

Possible sidewalks from Albertta Drive to Spring Canyon Trail and public opposition to the stretches of added curb and gutter led the discussion. Much of the opposition to curb and gutter along the road came from bicyclists, according to Schock, who want a bike lane on the highway. But Schock said that would require additional right-of-way, which could cause further delays to the project.

He also said the eight-tenths of a mile between Albertta Drive and Spring Canyon Trail will have three 12-foot lanes (two driving lanes and a turning lane), along with the curb and gutter, for a total width of 40 feet. Next to that the county will grade for a future six-foot sidewalk/multi-use path. The rest of the project will have a four-foot-wide shoulder on at least one side of the road.

"Cars and bicycles, we feel, should be able to share that 40-foot path in a pretty safe manner," he said.

Commissioners seemed to agree, but Ferebee and DiSanto did advocate pouring concrete for the multi-use path/sidewalk right away, rather than grading it and waiting to add the concrete later. The concrete would likely cost about $125,000, according to Schock. 

Schock said he hopes to be able to start construction on the project in late 2019 or early 2020. 

In other business, the commissioners approved authorization to advertise for bids for the Pennington County Care Campus and residential treatment project. The bid opening is scheduled for 2 p.m. Jan. 8.

The project will complete the second phase of the renovation of the former National American University building, which is now the county's Care Campus facility. The east half of the second floor will be built into a living area for a residential treatment program, with separate spaces for men and women. The two zones will include a parking lot, a drop-off lane along the alley, landscaping and paths on the east side of the block.

Sheriff Kevin Thom said the county received a $1.5 million donation to be used for this project and has pledged additional funds to cover new costs that may occur. 

Thom, in response to commissioners' questions, reiterated that the project doesn't add any new county programs, but consolidates services and expands the county's capacity for substance abuse treatment. 

Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP, File 

In this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard outlines the state's spending priorities during his annual budget address at the State Capitol in Pierre. Daugaard's final legislative session as governor beginning Tuesday, Jan. 9. 

Governor proposes millions for National Guard building in Rapid City, lab in Sturgis

Two Black Hills projects would be funded with extra money from this year’s state government budget if recommendations from Gov. Dennis Daugaard are enacted.

During his final yearly budget address Tuesday at the Capitol in Pierre, Daugaard proposed spending $3.88 million to help fund construction of an Army National Guard aviation facility in Rapid City, and $1.66 million to renovate a building in Sturgis that would serve as the state Metrology Lab.

Those two projects and seven others around the state would receive a total of $18.65 million in appropriations from money available in the current fiscal year 2019 budget. Daugaard said much of the money for the projects has been freed up by fewer-than-projected Medicaid enrollees, lower-than-projected statewide school enrollment and higher-than-projected statewide property values.

The $3.88 million for the National Guard facility in Rapid City would quicken the funding pace for a planned $20 million National Guard Readiness Center at Rapid City Regional Airport.

The Legislature approved partial funding for the project last winter as part of a three-year plan. Daugaard said the $3.88 million in additional funding that he is proposing would cover years two and three of the plan.

Additionally, the state anticipates $15 million from the federal government to complete the funding for the project.

The existing Army Aviation Support Facility at Rapid City Regional Airport is crowded with aircraft and personnel, National Guard officials have said. The new National Guard Readiness Center would be built next to the existing facility and would provide space for offices, classrooms, training areas, storage and supplies.

The $1.66 million that Daugaard is proposing for a state Metrology Lab would move the existing lab out of what has been deemed an unsuitable space in Pierre, Daugaard said during a press conference after his speech. The lab would be moved to Sturgis, where an existing state-owned building on a Department of Transportation complex would be renovated to serve as the lab's new home.

Daugaard said during the press conference that the Metrology Lab validates equipment used by state employees to enforce standards for measuring devices, such as scales that weigh grain and trucks, and equipment that validates the octane rating of gasoline.

Daugaard said a new home for the lab is needed to keep it certified and in compliance with national standards.

Daugaard’s proposed expenditures of extra fiscal year 2019 funds are among his broader recommendations for the fiscal year 2020 budget. His recommendations are subject to consideration by the Legislature and the new governor when they convene for the annual legislative session next month in Pierre. Daugaard is term-limited and will be succeeded by Gov.-elect Kristi Noem when she is inaugurated Jan. 5.