Legislative Highlights 3-6-13

Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:31 pm


We are in our final week of the 2013 South Dakota Legislative Session. The pieces are coming together including the final approval of the state’s 2013 revised fiscal budget along with the proposed 2014 fiscal budget. The one element that is not known as of my writing this column is the federal government sequestration which I discussed in last week’s column. South Dakota has made the decision to proceed in passing a state budget without consideration of sequestration and deal with the final results of sequestration once they are fully known.

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I understand that not everyone will agree with my following statement, but in my first legislative session I personally think that D.C. could take some lessons from the 2013 South Dakota Legislative Session on how to work across party lines and work together to accomplish results. I personally had the opportunity to have a piece of my legislation, which had good bipartisan support from inception, get amended into another bill and finally get hog housed into the “Build South Dakota” SB 235.

Let me take you through the steps of my bill which began as HB 1196. The bill was to establish a rural economic development partnership program. Rep. Scott Munsterman of Brookings asked if he could amend my bill into his bill HB 1161 and create a more comprehensive economic development bill. I agreed, and thus, we proceeded resulting in committee approval on a vote of 13-0 and House floor approval of 63-6. Then party leaders from both chambers proceeded to hog house HB 1161 into SB 235 to create the bipartisan effort of “Build South Dakota”. This was a great experience to be involved with in my first session and a great feeling to work together for a common goal.

“Build South Dakota” has multiple positive facets in the bill. Some of the key components of the bill include supporting education, housing, work force training, road infrastructure, and economic development packages for various size projects and communities. The education piece is especially appealing as it provides the funding source to fund SB 159 which is the bill to provide additional funding for school districts with students with limited English proficiency.

Serving on the House Appropriations Committee the final legislative week will mean long hours to draft the final state budget for approval. Sen. Jim White who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee will provide you with some updated state revenue forecast information in his weekly column. These numbers will be used by the Joint Appropriations Committee for fine tuning the final budget for approval this week. The Appropriations Committee has been a rewarding experience for me as you really get to know the details of the overall operations of the state.

Finally, Sen. White, Rep. Gibson and I had the opportunity to witness the signing of two State Fair bills this week by the Governor. The first bill was for the authorization of a new 4-H Complex which you will be hearing more about soon. I encourage you to become involved in this exciting project. The other bill was for the appropriation of new inmate housing on the state fairgrounds. Thank you for your interest in state government and allowing me to represent you. You can contact me at 350-1371 or at my personal email at dickwerner_5@hotmail.com or my legislative email at Rep.Werner@state.us.sd.

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Today our Appropriation’s Committee received our state’s revenue forecasts from our Bureau of Finance and Management and our Legislative Research Council. We asked both of these agencies to give us an independent forecast of fiscal year end 6-30-2013’s numbers and a projection for the year of 2014. They also included an economic outlook overview that indicated below average United States economic growth is expected to continue.

Consumers continue to reduce their personal debt. Reductions in government spending continue to weight on overall economic growth. The risks of recession stems from a fully implemented sequester and a much weaker global outlook.

Bureau of Financial Management’s Fiscal Year 2013’s General Fund Revenue is projected to come in at $1,263.0 billion dollars. The largest contributor, sales and use tax, will contribute $774.0 million, or 57% of that total. Fiscal Year 2014 General Fund revenues are projected to be $1,320.0 billion, of which $803.0 million, or 60% comes from sales tax. These numbers indicate a 3.95% increase of 2013 revenues over 2012 and 3.77 increase in revenue in 2014 over 2013.

We also discussed the important sequester dates, which begin on March 1. Thirty days later the federal government employees will begin to feel the effects. On March 27 the current continuing resolution expires. (The federal government is at risk of shutting down). On April 15 the federal government will come to a stop if a continuing resolution is not reached.

If the sequester continues for a full year, our estimates indicate different agencies within our state government would sustain approximately $17.0 million of federal government cuts to their programs. We chose not to adopt any sequester changes in our budget as the timeline to the end of the sequester is unknown. If the sequester continues and we have had a chance to see its impact on our budget, we may be called back for a special session.

According to the White House, these are some of the areas of our state government that would be impacted by sequestration:

Teachers and schools–$1,162 million in funding for primary and secondary education would be lost.

1,000 students and 10 school districts would lose their funding.

$1,779 million to fund teachers, aids, and staff to help children with disabilities would be lost.

Approximately 200 children would lose their Head Start Services.

90 low income students and 10 work study students would lose their funding.

Up to 100 disadvantaged students could lose their child care, which is essential for working parents.

950 fewer children will receive vaccines for various diseases.

Approximately $214,000 would be lost for meals to senior citizens.

As we compared our analysis of these projections to our proposed budget, we found this to be overstated, and for these reasons, we will wait to see accurate numbers before we adjust our proposed budget.

We are in our last week, and I want to thank you for all the input I have received from you throughout this year’s session. Thank you for the opportunity to be your District 22 Senator. You can continue to reach me at 350-5127 or sen.white@state.sd.us.

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Legislative Highlights

The 88th Legislative Session is rapidly coming to an end. Tuesday, March 5th is the last day for bills or resolutions to pass both houses. March 6th-8th are days reserved for concurrence or conference committees to compromise on sections of legislation that differed between the two Houses. For example, if an amendment is made in the Senate and it changes the original bill from the House, then it will need to be referred to a conference committee to iron out the differences. During this Session nearly 500 bills were introduced, but fewer than half of these bills actually make it through the system and become law.

The most important function of the last week of Session is the approval (or disapproval) of the General Appropriations Bill. This bill, according to South Dakota Statute, shall “EMBRACE NOTHING BUT APPROPRIATIONS FOR ORDINARY EXPENSES OF THE EXECUTIVE, LEGISLATIVE AND JUDICIAL DEPARTMENTS OF THE STATE, THE CURRENT EXPENSES OF STATE INSTITUTIONS, INTEREST ON THE PUBLIC DEBT, AND FOR COMMON SCHOOLS.”

Any other appropriations are to be made by separate bills for special spending. And, whether such expenses are deemed “general” or “special” appropriations, these bills must pass by a two-thirds vote of both Legislative bodies to become law.

Throughout this Session, my priorities have been to adequately fund education through the formula and to expand Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid will not only help our community health care providers but it will help an additional 48,000 South Dakotans who are the working poor in our state. As the General Appropriations Bill is formulated, it is our final opportunity to advocate for spending on these priorities.

During this last week there are a variety of projects still being considered for funding: the new “Blood Run” State Park, building a visitor’s center at Custer State Park, and the expansion of the Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills. In addition, departments are requesting to expand over 100 positions in state government.

Further, there are millions of dollars in requests for General Fund dollars from the railroads, for demolition of old buildings at the Human Services Center in Yankton, for the expansion of a cyber-security program, for agriculture experiment stations, and dollars to help our counties and townships with roads. And, this is only the short list of funding requests. It’s a challenge for Legislators to keep priorities at the forefront when many proposals for spending our South Dakota state dollars are worthy projects.

Equally important to spending our state dollars responsibly is accurately figuring our state’s income. Last year’s over-estimation of expenses resulted in a $47 million budget surplus for the year that ended in June of 2012. Those in the majority party seem determined to not spend those surplus dollars, along with the FY13 and FY14 surplus dollars also in our reserve funds. That $47 million certainly would have benefited our children, our schools, our community care providers and our elderly. In addition to our General Fund expenses-or our state’s checkbook-there is approximately $1 billion in Trust Funds-or our state’s savings accounts-that may be considered to meet our state’s priority expenses.

Along with the General Appropriations bill, Legislators will be considering the merits of a new economic development plan dubbed “Building South Dakota” during our final week of Session. This plan is a bipartisan effort to craft legislation and identify common interests that address the concerns of voters who rejected a less accountable, less targeted and less fair economic development plan last November.

Once again, thank you for your support and interest in our South Dakota state government. To me, considering our state’s priorities is paramount. Please feel free to contact me at (605) 352-9862 or peggygibson@hotmail.com.

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