Legislative Report

Legislative Report By Rep. Jamie Boomgarden
District 17 This week brought us a very significant change in temperatures, last week sustaining 20-30 below zero, and now this week being 50-60 degrees above zero. This makes it hard to regulate the temperature in the Capital as well, causing many uncomfortable days as a result. â�?¨â�?¨As was anticipated the long awaited revision of the stateâ�?�?s budget was addressed by the governor to all legislators in a joint session in Pierre on Thursday. The newspapers and news stations have for the last month provided a great amount of information about the national economic issues as well as the pending expectations of negative news expected from the Governors report. I feel this was helpful in allowing the public time to brace itself (to a certain degree) for what was coming.â�?¨â�?¨ In the governorâ�?�?s address there were three pages of program cuts amounting to 46.1 million dollars. The reason cuts are necessary is that the current expectations of the length of this economic slowdown is expected to last longer than first predicted. The original budget showed a recovery sometime in the third quarter of FY 2009. Now the expectation is that the recovery will go beyond the second quarter of FY 2010. Due to the more than expected reductions in the stateâ�?�?s top five revenue generators (sales tax, video lottery, bank tax, insurance tax and contractor's tax), the budget was not going to be accurate. As well with all these program cuts, fee increases and use of the reserves, this problem carries over to the FY 2011 budget as well. The FY 2011 budget is expected to have a $30 million dollar deficit if all goes well. The numbers in the budget were "optimistic" ones, meaning if any quarter does worse than expected it will further impact the next two years also. For this reason coming up with only one time fixes will not correct or help the situation for more than one year. You may have heard the Democratic leadership talk about spending all the one time money which came out to be around 84 million dollars to cover the short fall. The problem is that the $84 million does not cover the $134 million that is needed to balance the budget. Therefore, if the spending programs are not cut, they will continue to use up money that we just simply "do not have." Be careful of some of the Democratic statements out there that say they want to work in bipartisan ways. I sat in on part of their press conference last week and they loudly stated they wanted everything on the table for options to fix the problems and wanted to "work together" to find a solutions. In their words that followed they stated they would not support any fee increases. So much for working together and everything being on the table! Gov. Rounds still plans on the $6 million in fee increases that were proposed in the December budget.â�?¨â�?¨ As one looks through the list of cuts by the governor, there is not a single program that is not important to someone for whatever reason it may be. Some of the programs involve services, some conveniences, some educational, some are activities/events, and some are financial services and support. There is still a long process ahead that has to take place before the cuts take place and are approved. However, the current condition we are in, unless there's a federal issue involved to prevent a program from being reduced or cut, it will be difficult to change what has been proposed. The difficult part I have obviously is the loss of jobs. The budget proposed 76.5 FTEs (actual employees) will lose their jobs. I am hopeful that many of those employees will be able to transition into other positions and/or early retirement may be available to open spots up to lessen the loss. â�?¨â�?¨When I look back at my session in Pierre, I remember so plainly wanting to cut waste and reduce government. The problem that we faced back then was that there were 105 legislators all wanting to also do something for their home county or district at the same time. Frequently, we heard people making statements that the government is hording money in its reserves and not giving enough to other areas such as education. This did result in legislators spending extra money that was left over each year for what ever project was determined to have the most support. Usually this was given to education through a variety of different means with one time monies and other dept salary increases. Another cause are the programs that are offered to be no cost to the state for three years (supported by grants). The supporters of these types of bills will say that when the money runs out then the program just goes away! Yeah right! People get pretty furious when the new service they became use to for three years goes away- so the legislators will then feel obligated continue the funding of that program. Now looking back and having a veterans view of what has happened, I can see why many previous veterans have always avoided new programs and spending money just because we have extra. Not that it would have prevented painful times now, but the best place for your money above the governorâ�?�?s budget would have been placing it in the reserves or accounts for rainy days such as these. I guess that is one of the problems with term limits, is that frequently we have to learn the hard way how to best handle excess funding. We have to be pretty thankful that previous attempts to give education an "additional" 100 million dollars a year never came through. One major kick to the budget would be the school lawsuit. Just think where the next $100 million a year would be coming from if we were to have to give up all that money as well. This is why my opinion is that it is the Legislature's job to decide funding for schools, not the courts. There are just too many needs in other departments to allow one department to come in and dictate what they want without the regard for others.â�?¨â�?¨ As for talk about the $500 millions stimulus package that may or may not come from the federal government, $300 million is expected to have strings attached, while the remaining $200 million would hopefully be for the state to decide how to spend. The problem here is that we do not know if we will get it and if we do it will more than likely not be released to the state until after session is over. So in the meantime the Legislature will have to go ahead and make plans as if we will not receive it at all.â�?¨â�?¨ If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me by e-mail: Judge@svtv.com or by calling and leaving a message at 773-3851. â�?¨â�?¨Please keep our nation, our state, our troops and all the citizens in your thoughts and prayers as we wade through these difficult and uncertain economic times.â�?¨

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