Legislative Highlights 6-5-13

Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:00 am

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On Saturday, June 22nd, Governor Daugaard will convene the South Dakota Legislature for a special legislative session. Article IV of the constitution gives the Governor authority to convene the Legislature or either of its houses in a special session. Only the business encompassed in the Governor’s stated purpose for calling the special session can be transacted. (The last special session called by the Governor was on October 14th, 2005.) The purpose of convening the Legislature on June 22nd is to obtain legislative approval to use additional fiscal year-end funds for the construction of a new State Veterans Home in Hot Springs.

Here’s the history. The main Veterans home facility or Building One was constructed in 1889 when the Dakotas were still territories as a place to house aging Civil War Veterans. Currently this facility, because of its age, has multiple life and safety code issues including ADA inaccessible bathrooms, exposed plumbing, exposed ductwork and piping, rusting and clogged piping and no central air conditioning.

Because of the age and condition of the main Veterans home facility, the Center for Medicaid Services, a major source of funding, has deemed the facility incapable of being remodeled to achieve Medicaid certification. The home’s current Medicaid certification is contingent on the State of South Dakota building a new facility in the near future. If we fail to do so, the state will lose all Medicaid funding to care for our veterans at this facility.

Therefore, members of South Dakota state government, recognizing the need to provide quality, sustainable health care for our veterans in the future, began the process of applying for federal Veterans Administration (VA) funding to build a new facility in December of 2010. Our state received federal approval for VA funding in February of 2011 and the initial spending authority for the Veterans home project was secured from the Legislature during the 2011 Legislative Session.

Initially, the project was designed and approved under an older version of the VA design standards. In June of 2012 the VA withdrew approval of the design and required a new design standard resulting in the redesigning and re-approval by the VA. Additional spending authority was received from the Legislature during the 2013 Legislative Session. At this time, the entire cost of the project was expected to be approximately $41 million. This amount included construction, engineering and architect fees, information technology, furnishings and contingencies.

However, bids for construction only came in much higher than expected-$41 million. This amount did not include engineering and architect fees, information technology, furnishings and contingencies. Total projected costs are estimated to exceed $51 million. If the funding is not secured this year, South Dakota is in jeopardy of losing all federal VA grant funding for this project, or approximately $23.6 million. As part of finalizing the grant award, the state must attest that it has secured all the funding necessary to complete the project by the close of the federal fiscal year that ends on October 1st, 2013.

Governor Daugaard assures us that the State of South Dakota has the available funding necessary to fill the gap created by the higher bids with our projected year- end surplus. He estimates that revenues for fiscal year 2013 will be $7-10 million higher than projected and expenses will be $7-10 million lower than expected. Therefore our state will be able to provide the necessary funding to secure this project and care for our veterans in future generations.

Thank you for your continued interest in our state government. Please feel free to contact me at (605) 352-9862 or peggygibson@hotmail.com.

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Legislative Highlights

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