District 17 lawmakers react to Rounds’ speech

District 17 lawmakers react to Rounds' speech By Susan Smith, Kara Christensen and Denise Watt Pierre � South Dakota�s revenues are increasing at a greater rate than its expenses and its job growth has risen at a rate substantially higher than the national average.

Those are just a few of the statistics Gov. Mike Rounds used during his annual state of the state speech to the Legislature Jan. 11 to prove South Dakota is moving towards what he said is a bright future.

The state experienced what would now total a $39 million annual loss when voters repealed the inheritance tax. Lawmakers have replaced that shortfall each year with money from the state�s reserve funds rather than increasing taxes, Rounds said.

Rounds� budget for fiscal year 2006 calls for a 2.9 percent increase in state aid to education and the addition of the equivalent of 359 full-time positions in state government. Many of those will go to the state Board of Regents for use in developing doctoral programs and funding research assistants for grant programs.

Rounds said other FTE additions would save the state money by cutting down in overtime costs and decreasing contracts with outside agencies.

The state cannot afford to continue the $7.3 million in one-time money given to education during the last two years. That money was never meant to be an annual allocation and won�t be this year, Rounds said.

�The most important thing about this budget is it contains no new taxes,� he said.

In the next year the governor wants to remove barriers for business creation and expansion.

South Dakota�s school children are scoring well in math and reading programs, Rounds said. He proposed the development of new programs to give each student the chance to become a good reader. He also wants to expand tuition reimbursement programs for rural doctors and dentists.

�I have a few concerns about the FTEs,� said Rep. Donna Schafer, R-Vermillion. �I just want to know a little more about the FTE situation � where are they going to be used specifically.�

Schafer said she liked his proposals for education funding, but she plans to vote for a flat 3 percent increase.

Rep. Jamie Boomgarden, R-Chancellor, said he thinks Rounds is starting to get the message across that many of the new FTEs are for grant-funded research programs that won�t amount to permanent positions. As long as many of the proposed FTEs are for federally funded education programs he supports their addition.

In his district many schools are facing opt-outs or have already tried to opt out of the state property tax freeze and failed. One-time money Rounds gave two years in a row isn�t there anymore. Boomgarden said a school board official was disappointed that money wouldn�t be there again.

Sen. B.J. Nesselhuf, D-Vermillion, said the governor has �a lot of explaining left to do� on the issue of FTEs.

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