The first week has rapidly passed by. On the first day of session there had already been 104 bills submitted or pre-filed. A good majority of these are from the governor's office/administration.
As for the governor's budget, Gov. Rounds reported a stable economic condition of our state, however, he also placed emphasis on flat revenue. This basically means that there is going to be very limited monies available for projects or increases to existing departments' budgets. With this said as the budget currently stands, state employees are currently looking at a 2.5 percent raise in salaries, school funding is starting at 2.5 percent increase in operating expenses (which also includes salaries).
The Department of Transportation is taking the biggest hit due to the depletion of about $80 million out of their funds over the last three years. The one most talked about in this category is the Highway Patrol reduction of $2 million.
Many of us out here are hoping to at least return $275,000 so that the overtime pay can be resumed. This is more of a morale issue due to the adjustment Troopers have to make to their schedules when they stay out longer due to an accident or due to court time. It is difficult if you have to go to court for four to five hours one day and then the next day you can only work three to four hours to get your full day in. This break up in the day makes it difficult to carry a second job to make up for the reduction in overtime and at the same time the Trooper would still have to pay daycare or other expenses for both days instead of just one.
One of my major concerns that I have just observed in the news media and newspapers lately was related to the Rapid City School Board members stating that their budget will be expended soon after providing $6,000 increases to all teachers in their district. Now, I have just read the Sioux Falls School District plans to aggressively spend down their budgets of 19 percent down to at or below 9 percent in the four to five years. I applaud their decisions to increase teachers' pay, however I strongly recommend caution that they are not recklessly spending their budgets just to be able to later tell the governor that they did what he told them to do.
In the State of the State budget, Gov. Rounds criticized the schools for having average 23 to 24 percent budget reserves and that increase funding would be difficult to justify due to the reserves being too high. The "game" I am sensing is that Rapid City and Sioux Falls may be recklessly spending down budgets to only later say "we are doing what you told us to do". As with any department in state government, you need to be responsible with the taxpayers' money; the taxpayers' budget should not be recklessly spent down to "prove a point." The Deptartment of Transportation is finding out that due to higher construction costs and flat gas tax revenues, that their budget has been significantly reduced and are now having to cut projects and reduce other expenses.
The state did not increase their budgets just because they spent down their budget. Any plans like this could very much back fire for those school districts.
The only vote of interest that we took up was to add a code of conduct to the legislative rules that we follow as legislators. I believe the vote was 59 supporting and 11 against the code of conduct. The primary reasons for my voting against this rule was that it has no teeth or punishment and only acts as a reminder that you're not supposed to be a part of or cause any offensive behaviors.
I feel the majority of the people back home are well aware that the rule on code of conduct will not stop anyone, who comes in with a mental health issue or behavior control problem, from creating a conflicting or offensive situation. I also believe more importantly that communication is very important between parent/child, employer/employee, etc. so that if something seems wrong, that person has someone to talk to or to express their concerns.
Without this communication a minor problem can quickly escalate into a more severe problem, not just in the legislature but also in the workplace, school or even at home.
Activities will pick up next week as bills begin to be heard in committees. If you have any questions or concerns feel free to contact me at:Rep.Boomgarden@State.sd.us
Remember to keep all the American and Coalition troops and their families in your thoughts and prayers as they perform their duties.