Pierre Report: Budget concerns top priority for legislators

Our second week is now complete, and Gov. Daugaard's long-anticipated budget address has been heard. There was no surprise that the budget he presented to the Legislature was going to contain aggressive cuts. All along he had campaigned on fixing the structural deficit by making budget cuts and not raising taxes.

As many of you are aware, his proposal consists of a minimum 10 percent across-the-board cut in all departments and all agencies. Needless to say, this is not going to be well-accepted by many if any of those affected. One surprise so far is the few e-mails we have received about the budget cuts. I am not really sure if everyone is holding at the request of their associations or if there was enough preparation ahead of time that people are more tolerant (for now). 

One thing to keep in mind is that this is the governor's budget. We in the Legislature will be having our appropriations committee working to see how many of these cuts will hold true. The reason I say this is because many Social Service programs and expenses are mandated by the federal government and cannot be cut. Other programs have hitches in place so that if you cut such a program we have to pay back a significant amount of money to the feds for the little amount that we had to put into it in the first place.

Other programs are just plain basic needs � we will definitely find out what programs people cannot do without, but unfortunately we will not know most of these answers until the appropriations committee completes its work which will be towards the end of session.

The chief difference between this budget and budgets presented to us in previous years is that all the hard cuts have been made up front. In the past, budgets have included some cuts but mostly involved stimulus money and reserve dollars to fill the gaps. The legislators who wanted to make additional cuts in those years had to work up hill trying to get other members to follow their lead. Lobbyists and people from home would influence those legislators to not go along with the cuts. This time instead of going on offence to make cuts, the legislators who support the cuts will play defense and resist the pressures from home, lobbyists and families.

We all have to be very mindful of the effects of what a 10 percent budget cut will mean. People will be taking serious pay cuts or having to change positions or lose their jobs all together. I do not kid myself about what could very likely happen this year and how the cuts will affect many people around me and close to me. Time will tell.

The one thing I am hoping to hear more about is the reduction of red tape or other barriers that many businesses or agencies have because of state requirements which ultimately results in extra expenses. The governor made comments of reducing government induced expenses which business are required to follow, and I am interested in hearing more about what they may be so we can assist in making those changes.

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.

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