Legislative Report

February’s first week in the state Senate

By Sen. Tom Jones

District 17

Monday morning we listened to budget requests from the Department of Labor, the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and the Secretary of State.   The DOL reported that there are 425,000 people employed in South Dakota and 467,000 jobs available.  Only 2% of their funding comes from the General Fund; most of its funding is Federal Funds.  The Unemployment Trust Fund had a balance of $51.3 million.  The Secretary of State, Jason Gant, reported that South Dakota’s voter turnout for our last November’s election was 69%.

I believe the largest department, the Department of Social Services, met with us Tuesday.  Their total budget for one year is $1.2 billion dollars. 39% is from the state’s General Fund and 60% is from Federal Funds.  A change this year in our FMAP (Federal Medical Assistance Percentage) is that South Dakota is doing better financially better than the nation as a whole, we will receive less Federal monies.  What an eye-opener for me—because our state is doing well compared to the rest of the nation, we receive less.

Governor Daugaard recommended a 3% increase to providers in this year’s budget proposal.  That amounts to $9,106,784.  He also carried over from last year’s budget $20,000,000 and put these monies into a reserve fund.  Don’t hold me to it, but I think it is proposed to carry this $20 million over again this year as it wasn’t needed.  If this is true, perhaps this excess $20 million could have been better utilized in education and assistance to our rural nursing homes.  The guess of 48,000 additional eligible caused by the Affordable Health Care Act was quite a bit too many.  Just an added bit of information:  69% of Medicaid recipients are children and 31% are adults.

Wednesday morning the Bureau of Finance Management, the State Retirement System and the Investment Council met with us.  It was reported that South Dakotans were the recipients of over $1 Billion in Stimulus monies.  Our South Dakota Retirement System uses 0% of General Fund money.   Approximately 75,000 state employees are in the system.  Our state employees group is an aging group.  One in four employees are eligible for retirement during the next five years.

Let’s talk about 2 great advantages we, as South Dakotans, have.  The first is we live in a great place.  Sure, we have some bumps along the way, but what an advantage we have over other states in raising families.  The second one is our state’s Investment Council.  I’ve touted them before:  they are the number ONE Investment Council in the United States.  The Retirement System enjoys the benefit of our Investment Council.  In 2013, its investment income is estimated to be $607,000,000.  In 2014, its investment income is estimated to by $612,000,000.  The total monies managed by this council are $10.5 Billion.  Matt Clark heads the council.  My hat is off to him and his staff.  He explained that each of his staff needs 10 years to be as proficient as they can be.  Each staff member is closely monitored during this time period.

Thursday we listened to Senate Bill presentations.  A few of them included construction of swine teaching and research facilities at SDSU and the construction of an indoor practice and human performance facility at SDSU.  No state funds will be used in either project.  We also unanimously passed an appropriation to refund certain taxes for elderly persons and persons with a disability.  We deferred to a later date provisions regarding state aid to special education; a request  for ongoing funding for Teach for America in the amount of $500,000; and an appropriation to rehabilitate a section of rail line to the tune of $5,000,000.

Next week, if time and space allows, I’d like to give you some information I have on the Medicaid issue.

If you would like to contact me with your concerns, issues, and/or information, please contact me at sen.jones@state.sd.us.  Remember to include your name and address.

 

 

 

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