Legislative Report By Rep. Jamie Boomgarden
District 17 Hello from Pierre. Another week has flown by which is a surprise considering all of the budget issues. We started with a light amount of bills being submitted early in session, however that has just changed. The last day to submit unlimited bills was Thursday and the last day to submit our last three optional bills will be Tuesday at noon. So let the rush begin. As many of you are already aware, the unemployment numbers for last month came in at 3.9 percent, which was not expected to occur until mid- to late-2009. The concern here is that the unemployment numbers associate themselves closely to sales tax revenue. This is one of the main revenue sources for state government. The sales tax number is expected to be released next week. So the current expectations for this sales tax number is not looking too bright. The current lack of revenues that is expected to come in for the next couple years is a big concern and a point of debate related to philosophy between parties. As you have already heard the governorâ�?�?s budget involves raising fees and removing exemptions to sales taxes, and cutting the budget and programs not bringing in revenues. The appropriations team is working very diligently trying to find excess monies in state department budgets that can be swept out and used on the shortfall. The Democrats, who in press conferences have stated they would work with the Republicans to survive this budget shortfall, have been opposed to the fee increase portions of the governor's plan. In addition they have made public that they want to spend the $13 million in the REDI fund and the $10 million in the Future Fund to offset the shortfall. There are two problems with this plan â�?�? first is that both funds are already obligated to employers (meaning it is not available). The way these two funds work is after the employer completes employee development, etc. they would then later get paid. These dollars have already been promised. The second problem is that these will only cover one year. If we do not cut the programs that use money now, then next year we are in the same situation as this year. That is all besides the point but it does help those of you back home to realize that many people will use this current budget situation more for political gains or opportunity rather than actually coming together and fixing our current state economic problem. I would encourage you, when you hear someone talking against the current plan that the governor has, to simply ask them what it is they would do to fix the problem. I have heard responses that the state should get a second job; that's great but they were not able to elaborate any further on their answer. This definitelywas not enough to get me to remove myself from the current plan. Believe me, any suggestion would be recommended (just be nice in how you relay it to me). Last week I mentioned talk about the stimulus package. I guess it keeps changing hour to hour both in amounts as well as requirements. It sounds like it is currently set up as an enhancement program. What I mean by that is that the stimulus money cannot be used to offset cuts or reductions in programs. The problem is that we currently have no money to maintain or prevent the cuts from these programs and therefore would not be eligible to receive the stimulus money for that program. That was just an example, but it gives you an idea of what could still come and how quickly things can still change. Committees have been slow for the most part with a few interesting topics thus far. Next week we will see the beginning of more interesting debate such as the medical marijuana bill on Tuesday. 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. Keep your fingers crossed for the December sales tax numbers expected for next week. Remember to keep the troops and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
By David Lias For most people in Vermillion, Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson have been merely images on newsprint. The … Read Article