By Sen. Tom Jones
Board of Regents meet with joint Appropriations Committee
The Board of Regents and our state universities met with the Joint Appropriations Committee last week. Two days of testimony and budget requests involved the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University, Northern State University, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Black Hills State University, and Dakota State University.
Dr. Jack Warner, executive director of the Board of Regents, began the testimony with a description of where our high school students go after graduation. One third attends one of our six state universities, 16 percent attend college out of state, 11 percent attend a technical school, 6 percent attend a private school, and 34 percent do not attend a post-secondary education. Today, 62 percent of a student’s cost to attend college is at their expense and 30 percent of the students need some form of remediation in math and/or math. This brings back my information in last week’s article that this remediation can be done, entirely or partially, by taking these classes while still in high school. This will save each student approximately $300 per credit hour.
Dr. Warner stated that 78 percent of South Dakota students graduate from college with debt, compared to the national average of 68 percent. Each university President spoke to us about their institution. Most of them spoke to the issue of Maintenance and Repair of their facilities caused by (my opinion) budget restraints. USD has a deferred maintenance of more than $70 million and SDSU has a deferred maintenance over $100 million.
President Abbott, of USD, stated that they have 141 freshman students in their Honor’ Program. Dr. Chicoine, president of SDSU, said 41 percent of its students are first generation students. This is an amazing statistic and perhaps an indication of our high school graduate’s thought process concerning how important furthering their education is to their success in the work force. Both of these universities are moving towards a Decentralized Budget Model. This gives each college within the university the ability to oversee closely the expenditures it incurs.
On Thursday, the South Dakota Retirement System, Investment Council, and the Department of Revenue met with us. Our Retirement System has over 77,000 members with a total of nearly $10 billion in investments. The State Cement Plant Fund is close to joining the Investment Council and their funds will enjoy a larger return. The Investment Council has$12 billion in assets. They have a great staff with many, many years of experience in investing. They earned about $1.25 billion for the members last year. Because of the upswing in our nation’s financial situation, the rate of earnings was an amazing 19 percent.
New license plates will be coming in 2016. These will be paid for in three installments of $1.8 million (2015), $2.24 million (2016), and $1.56 million (2017).
The Department of Revenue talked about its $71 million budget and their 247 employees. One of their larger functions is to collect and distribute the fuel tax revenues of approximately $162 million. Their best estimate of revenue that we do not receive from internet sales to us from out-of-state vendors is $60 million. This is a shame, but we need the federal government to act on this.
The Vermillion School District partnered up with Builder’s Choice of Vermillion and several surrounding schools, including Centerville and Irene-Wakonda to apply and receive a $100,000 grant for Career and Technical Education. The governor presented the award at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Alexis Logue, from Wakonda, has been a page in our Senate for the past two weeks. She can speak for herself, but I know she enjoyed and learned from her experiences at the State Capitol. Her folks have another reason to be proud of her.
A majority of the bills that have been presented to the Senate have not been controversial, but I will mention a couple that were. SB 75 is an act to prohibit local governments from regulations on certain dog breeds. It passed 19-15 with my vote being no. Another that stirred some discussion was SB 91; an act to provide local municipalities power to make decisions on liquor control in vehicles such as taxis and limos. This bill failed 15-18 with me voting for the bill. This bill was asked to be reconsidered and did pass the motion to reconsider 27-0. This means that we will hear the bill again.
As we have ended our fourth week in the 2014 Session, there has been a considerable amount of listening and questioning from our large departments of state government. I suspect that the bills with money attached to them will be coming to the Senate Appropriations Committee soon.
Again, if you have questions or concerns about a bill or bills, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Jones, senator
Clay and Turner Counties