State could sit on extra funds
February 12. 2013 5:22PM
As this year’s Legislative session reaches the midpoint, legislators still aren’t sure what kind of revenue supply will be available when they set next year’s budget.
Lawmakers from Districts 10 and 25 addressed the uncertainty at a legislative coffee Saturday at Bethany Meadows in Brandon.
Sen. Shantel Krebs, R-Renner, Dist. 10, said despite being halfway through session, the Legislature doesn’t know exactly how much money the state will have to work with.
What they do know, however, is there is an additional $26 million available than expect, coming from left over from last year’s budget and increased state revenue, that has special interest groups and various agencies and organizations wanting a peice of the pie.
Krebs said it’s “like a dog at the kitchen table.” Krebs said.
She said big programs like education and health care will get a share, and smaller concerns will fight to get a portion of the “leftovers.”
Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, Dist. 10, sits on the appropriations committee and said that while appropriations has been hearing testimony during the session so far.
“Our real work is about to begin,” he said, referring the committee’s transition from hearing testimony to putting numbers on paper.
Haggar said the committee is could play it conservative and put some of the $26 million in reserves.
But that work was held up for a day as the Monday session this week was canceled because of storm warnings. Rescheduling called for a Tuesday through Friday work day for legislators this week instead of Monday through Thursday.
In addition to Krebs and Haggar, Sen. Tim Rave, R-Baltic, Dist 25; and Rep. Scott Ecklund, R-Brandon, Dist. 25, attended Saturday’s coffee. Reps. Jenna Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, Dist. 10, and Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids, Dist. 25, did not attend, citing scheduling conflicts.
Krebs cited statistics showing South Dakota has more accidents per capita involving 14- and 15-year-old drivers than other states. She said pending legislation that would standardize driver education curriculum, extend driver permit time, ban electronic devices and limit passengers in these age groups are “significant packages.”
Larry King of Sioux Falls asked the lawmakers their opinions on House Bill 1173, which would give property tax credit to people who put their children in private schools.
Haggar, a co-sponsor of the bill, said Gov. Daugaard doesn’t favor it, so it doesn’t have much chance of passing. He and Ecklund, another sponsor of the bill, said they put their names on the bill so the topic could be discussed during the session.
“I understand the intent of the bill,” Ecklund said. Even though his children went to private school, he said he didn’t mind paying taxes to support public school.
King and his wife, Suzanne, said after the coffee that some people can’t afford both private school and taxes supporting public school.
The Sentinel bill, which would allow a designated person in a school to have a firearm, continue to garner discussion, and Rave said testimony on the bill has been emotional.
Legislators and the public need to step back and look at the bill as a safety issue, he said.
He said schools in the most rural parts of the state can’t afford to have a law enforcement officer on site, and local sheriffs’ deputies could be stationed miles away. He said that although the discussion “is far from over” on the topic, he thinks some schools need the option the bill provides.
Ecklund said any person to serve as a sentinel would be required to take 44 hours of firearms training, the same as law enforcement.
Senate Bill 125, to provide shared custody in divorce cases, also has brought emotional testimony, legislators said. The bill failed on the Senate floor on Thursday.
Krebs stressed that the bill called for not just shared custody, but 50/50 physical custody of children. She said many judges who contacted her were against the bill because of the physical custody aspect. If the parents lived in different states, for example, or different school districts, or even in different school boundaries within the same district, shared physical custody could be a logistical problem.
Rave said the bill, as written, also would be retroactive, meaning all prior cases would have to be reconsidered.
Krebs said the concept of the bill, to increase fairness in a divorce case, is a worthy pursuit, but a long debate on the Senate floor brought up too many disagreements abut what was fair. She said she hopes the bill comes back in some form next year.
Mike Austad, Sioux Falls, said from the audience that he though the bill has good intentions and also hopes it will come back next year.
Dennis Sever, CEO and administrator of Bethany Meadows, asked about the future of health care in South Dakota.
Rave said he is against expansion of Medicaid – casting a wider net of who would be eligible. He said existing concerns in South Dakota, such as nursing homes, are not being funded adequately, and those need to be properly supplemented before the state can think about adding more people to the state aid rolls.
The State Legislature will meet through March 8, then recess for two weeks before reconvening March 25 to consider any bills vetoed by the governor.
|Alica P. Thiele / Argus Leader Media
Legislators from Districts 10 and 25 answered questions at a coffee, held at Bethany Meadows in Brandon Saturday. Pictured are Sen. Shantel Krebs, R-Renner, Dist. 10; Tim Rave, R-Baltic, Dist. 25; Scott Ecklund, R-Brandon, Dist. 25; and Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, Dist. 10.