Legislators to decide how to divvy up $67M windfall
January 30. 2014 11:10AM
The six legislators who represent Districts 10 and 25 in Pierre were in Brandon Saturday, updating constituents on the early happenings of the 2014 Legislative Session. Saturday’s Legislative Coffee – organized by the Brandon Valley Area Chamber of Commerce – was the first of two scheduled. The next one is at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 15 in the community room on the campus of Bethany Meadows-Bethany Home in Brandon.
District 10 Senator Shantel Krebs reported that 162 bills had been introduced in the opening weeks. But there’s more to come, she assured, as 500 bills are typically introduced each year.
And every one of those bills is heard before a committee, she said.
“That’s sort of unique, because not every state does that,” Krebs said.
“The bills are just starting to come in, so things should be heating up a little bit,” added District 25 Senator Tim Rave, who is also the Senator Majority Leader.
The $67 million surplus is likely to be the biggest issue to solve in Pierre this session, and everyone “will have a hand out,” Krebs said.
In his state of the state address, Governor Dennis Daugaard indicated he wants to plug some of that surplus into workforce development, specifically targeting high-need positions such as plumbers and electricians. Krebs said Daugaard also wants to disperse the one-time wealth to rural medicine services and education.
The $67 million surplus stems from unclaimed property taxes, and Rep. Scott Ecklund (District 25) stressed that money is not ongoing.
Brandon Valley Superintendent Dave Pappone said the district stands to gain “$1 million or so” on the Governor’s proposed 3 percent increase to education.
But Pappone wasn’t as concerned about the proposed increase as he is about legislation that allows minor boundary changes. Developers sometimes use this tactic to petition into a neighboring school district that has a lesser property tax.
“They nibble you to death,” Pappone said.
He also made mention of the state dictating when a district can start school in the fall or let out for the year.
Rep. Don Haggar (District 10) said he’s not in favor of minor boundary changes.
“I could be a landowner and could petition to be part of another school district if the land is continuous,” he said. “But you can’t do that with counties … so why here? Why in this particular unit of government. I have a problem with that.”
Rep. Jenna Haggar (District 10) reported she’s planning to introduce five bills this year, all which are tough on crime.
Her father, Don, serves on the Appropriations Committee this session. “It’s just money, money, money all the time,” he said.
The Appropriations Committee, he said, wrapped up a week of hearings with the Department of Education. And that time was well spent, he said, as 40 percent of the state’s budget goes to education.
Social Services are another central element of the state budget, he said.
A bill to allow open carry firearms into a public facility is making a political statement in Pierre this session, Krebs said.
“With our current measures in place, we have what we need,” she said. “This would be backtracking a bit, and I don’t see it passing.”
“With heated conversations and debates … When emotions run high, I don’t know how smart it is to have a gun on a hip,” he said.
But Ecklund pointed out that it’s not that simple of an argument.
West River legislator Betty Olson has had to fire a gun into the air to fend off would-be robbers.
The bill may also have Jenna Haggar’s support.
“I have not read the bill yet but would probably support it,” she said. “I look at it as protection.”