Legislative View by Rep. B.J. Nesselhuf The final week of the legislative session ended somewhat chaotically. The governor's salary policy proposal was rejected by members of his own party. The Governor's request for a 30 cent increase on both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco was rejected by members of his own party. The governor's spending priorities, reflected in his recommended budget, were changed by members of his own party.
I supported the increase in education funding and the creation of the Dakota Corps Scholarships. While the education funding did pass (after being "held hostage" for a day or two) the Dakota Corps Scholarships died in a disagreement between the Republicans in the House and Senate over which version of the bill to support. On the other hand, the massive multi-million, multi-building prison construction program of the governor's was wholeheartedly supported by his party. I felt that we should look at alternatives prior to committing the state to this expensive, on-going, never ending financial undertaking.
I voted to update fees, some of which hadn't been changed since the 1940s. I supported an increase in the tourism tax, which failed. Democrats did our part to maintain fiscal responsibility and to fund the priorities of the state.
In addition, I continue to advocate for increased use of the state's reserve fund. South Dakotans should NOT be taxed to BUILD reserves. This has been my position all session.
In the end, while the repeal of the gag law failed � pardons were made more public. K-12 education got a much needed boost in funding. While there is no funding, the skeleton of a higher education scholarship program was put into law this year.
While we didn't achieve all that I hoped we would this session, we do the essential things. We funded the care of our elderly via emergency funds to Medicaid. We kept our commitment to our children attending school. The public safety is assured and a new Department of Public Safety was created to deal with the new threats we face.
We could have done more but all session I fought for you � the average taxpayer of South Dakota. I'm proud of that achievement.