Legislative Report By Rep. Jamie Boomgarden
District 17 There are only three weeks remaining which will make a lot of people happy These three weeks will go by very fast even though the first two days of this next week will be very long. Tuesday, Feb. 23 is what we call Crossover Day. This is the day bills must pass the Chamber it started in or it is an automatically killed bill. We have a lot of bills left on Monday and Tuesday, so I am expecting some very long nights. Several of the bills will have lots of discussion, such as the Rapid City minimum security prison site, National Animal Identification System that has already been heard for an hour on the floor and is up for another debate, the smoking ban and a bill for school bullying. If the nights get too long, we do have an option as a body to suspend the rules, and take House bills the day after crossover, but it just leaves a bad image. I have to apologize to many of you who have sent e-mails. In previous years I have been able to respond to nearly everyone that was sent. This year with all of the concerns being brought forward related to the budget cuts, I have just had no time to respond back to them. I do read them, so I encourage you to keep sending me information. Two problems I have been faced with is that as I write a message back to someone, by the time I finish (and I am not slow at typing) there are six new messages that pop up on my screen. The other problem is that after I tell someone my view, we get into a back and forth relationship of four additional e-mails. Therefore, I have fallen back into primarily just reading e-mails. The good news is that the tone in conversations has changed with some of the cuts. This does not mean there will not be any cuts, but people have been working behind the scenes to try to fix programs that were running out of control. Part of this reason is related to the stimulus money that South Dakota is expected to receive. Some of the examples of the stimulus money is in transportation. Transportation is expected to receive $186 million with very few strings attached. Water projects also will receive about $45 million again with few strings attached. Education is a problem however, with $102 million going to be available, but the catch here is that we have to maintain the 2006 or 2008 funding levels and programs. We are currently in a position that we do not have the money to keep those programs and would excluded us from that money. The stimulus money cannot be used to offset cuts in the budget. Another F-MAT for health care if we act quickly will be able to have the federal portion of Medicaid increased which will save the state about $11 million a year, again with few attachments here. Unemployment has a $17 million dollar carrot hanging over us, however in order to receive this one time money, the employers have to increase their spending on employees by $2 million a year, ongoing. There is still a lot of weeding through the strings that has to be done. Hopefully we can select which programs we want, because if it is an all or none we might not be able to accept it. As for many of the fee increases and removal of exemptions, along with the proposed cuts, we should have a more clear picture in the next week and a half. By this time the appropriations team should have been able to pick through the governor's budget which was amended a week into the session. I assume all of the cuts and fee changes will be placed in one big ominous bill that will include everything. This would require a majority vote. This makes it tough to amend, change or try to defeat a bill like this, especially if it is in the final "general budget" bill that we take up on our final day. If so, you will see posturing from the Democrats to save every program by amendments; they will request the votes be recorded. The reason for doing this is to take advantage of the economic situation we are in for the elections two years from now by pointing out their opponents voted through advertising. The part the ads won't tell you (nor will people remember) is that they control tax increases because their support is needed to increase taxes (two-thirds majority) and in the beginning of the year they flat out stated they would not support any tax increases! That only leaves the Republicans fee increases and program cuts available to balance the budget. It is in the state's constitution that the budget "must" be balanced by the time we leave Pierre in March. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me by e-mail: Rep.Boomgarden@state.sd.us or by calling and leaving a message at 773-3851. Continue to remember the American and coalition troops and their families, while we all sit back peacefully in our own homes.