Legislative Review By Rep. Jamie Boomgarden
District 17 We are upon our last week in the Legislature, which should make many people happy. I was fortunate enough to catch a nasty chest cold that has knocked me off my feet. Luckily it was at the end of the week and I had this weekend to partially recover. This year in my newsletters, I have focused mostly on the state budget, since that is what's on most people's minds. I have not heard what the state revenue for February will be yet, but the unemployment rate increased much more that anticipated to 4.1 percent. We were not looking to even hit 3.9 percent until late 2009. The obvious concern is that revenues generally follow the same trend and therefore, will add even more to the budget difficulties. The question is will the stimulus money save us? No one knows that answer, but what it will do is help build a bridge that will help get us out to the year 2012. Hopefully we will at that time have weathered the recession and things will start moving forward again, with people buying, and employers hiring again. As I have spoken about earlier, the tone in Pierre regarding budget cuts has changed. It is not as rigid as when we first started session. There are some programs that are going to be modified and adjusted, while others have to be saved as part of the requirement of receiving the stimulus money. However, with that said there will still be $40 million in budget cuts and nearly all the fees will still need to be passed on. Why are the cuts and fees still necessary? The stimulus money will help enhance programs and will help us barely get through the fiscal year 2011 without dipping into the state's reserve money. Why not spending any reserves, making cuts and raising fees, is so important is that fiscal year 2012, is now the year that we will face big decisions again! Current projects range that the state will be in need of $125 million dollars at that time. So granted the stimulus money is a lifeline, it will be a short one, which hopefully will get us to 2012. Stimulus dollars: Transportation dollars of $186 million and water work projects of $45 million are both going to be accepted without any strings attached. Unemployment money of $6 million will be accepted without ties, but if the full $17 million is accepted, then the employers of the state must agree to spend ongoing money towards workers issues, so it may be unlikely the remaining portion will be taken. Education is looking at $102 million but lots of strings attached, so far it seems like the state is trying to find a way to make this work. F-MAP, Medicaid match by the federal government is going to be accepted but a lot of cuts have to be reinstated for that to happen. There are actually 13 pages of programs that we were given that the state is eligible for, which was drawn from the 1000 page bill that was passed in Washington. Here is the cute part and the part that makes you glad you're not in the Bureau of Finance's position. Since South Dakota is the first State to have session end this year, we are obviously the test case. The problem is that when our state people call and ask questions, the reply is we will get back to you in 30 days. Well, our session ends in two weeks. So now the people in Washington, many of whom wrote part of the bill, are asking us, "How would you like it to work?" So in a way, South Dakota is leading the way in how to interpret the bill. It sounds like a pretty big mess, if you ask me. There is no question our budget will be balanced at the end of session because our State Constitution requires it. The problem will be when if by June 30, we actually receive our stimulus money that we were promised or if there will be delays!!! This is the next scary date to watch for. One bright part in our session was last Wednesday, the House defeated the Senate, 80-79, in the South Dakota Kids Voting, which teaches civic responsibilities and leadership to school kids. I do not have an amount raised but it was better than last year. Now that I think about it, maybe touching one of those Senators in the game is how I caught my cold. 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. Please keep the American troops, the coalition forces and all their families in your thoughts and prayers as they perform their duties for our nation.