Legislature to face education, Medicaid funding needs
November 15. 2012 3:55PM
The election is over and now it is time to think about what comes next. The voters soundly rejected additional funding for K-12 education and Medicaid via adding a penny to the sales tax and they also defeated the Governor’s education reform package overwhelmingly. At the same time, the makeup of the South Dakota State Legislature did not change much in terms of party affiliation.
In the State Senate there were 28 Republicans and seven Democrats elected maintaining the super-majority control that the Republicans have held for the past two years. Ten of those elected – eight Republicans and two Democrats – are new to the Senate. In the State House there were 53 Republicans and 17 Democrats elected, again maintaining the super-majority in that chamber. Thirty-one of those elected are new to the House with 23 new Republican members and eight new Democrat members.
It seems likely that the Governor will not have difficulty working with the legislature unless there are disagreements within the majority party itself. It is a case of “business as usual” in Pierre for the next two years. That is not to say that there are not some extremely important issues that will need to be resolved. The biggest questions for K-12 education will center on funding, as always is the case, and on whether the Governor and the Legislature will break the defeated education reform bill into pieces, passing what they perceive are the more popular parts. I will not speculate on what parts those might be, but I believe there were parts of Referred Law that were seen as positive. The voters certainly rejected the whole package, but that is not to say that they did not like anything in the proposal.
It will also be interesting to see how the defeat of Initiated Measure 15, the sales tax bill, will be interpreted. Was the vote a rejection of funding for K-12 or Medicaid or both, or was the vote against increased taxes or was it more against an increase in the regressive sales tax, or was it a lack of trust that the money would actually end up in education and Medicaid? I suspect that the vote included a mix of all of these aspects. Those in power will get to decide what this means from a policy point of view. The Governor’s budget address is just a few weeks away and that may give us hints as to what we will see debated in January as the legislature begins its work.
As always, we will be vigilant during the session and offer our help in crafting legislation that advances the Brandon Valley core operating purpose: “Our business is the creation of learning environments that result in success.” Stay tuned …