With today’s budget proposal from Governor Rounds, the fight over 3 billion dollars in funding starts with this:
Senate Democratic Leader Scott Heidepriem of Sioux Falls says he hopes Republican Gov. Mike Rounds' budget proposal will boost state financial aid to school districts and limit spending increases in the rest of state government.
In recent years, increases in overall state spending have exceeded the growth in state spending on education, Heidepriem said. He said he hopes Rounds reverses that when he presents his budget proposal to the Legislature on Tuesday.
"I'm hoping we'll have a budget that returns to common sense," Heidepriem said.
However, House Republican Leader Larry Rhoden of Union Center said the governor and GOP majorities in the House and Senate have been prudent in writing state budgets. Overall state spending has increased in recent years partly because the federal government has made the state pay a larger share of Medicaid, the state-federal program that pays the medical expenses of low-income people, he said.
And the same debate continues toward the end of the report:
"I think the people would rather see a significant investment in K-12 and a cap on overall spending for state government. Instead, what we have is a cap on K-12 funding and no cap at all on the growth of the bureaucracy, which continues to increase at about twice the rate of inflation," the leader of the Senate minority Democrats said.
Rhoden said the Legislature last year raised state aid to school districts significantly, partly by using extra revenue produced by a voter-passed increase in the state cigarette tax.
In addition, state government spending in other areas has risen because of growth in Medicaid, other health programs and the university system, he said.
A study done for education groups said school districts need at least $133 million a year in extra money to provide an adequate education to students. The state now faces a lawsuit that argues it is not providing enough aid to schools.
Obviously there is more that needs to be understood in regard to where billions of dollars are being spent in South Dakota. Health and education seem to be getting big increases, as the Department of Transportation is having trouble making ends meet. I have been digging into the numbers, but there is only so much detail available.
There is a ballot issue in the works that may help open up details on government contracts and put a stop to taxpayer funded lobbying for a piece of the government pie:
A petition drive is under way that asks South Dakota voters to eliminate tax-funded lobbying, make government contracts more accessible and draw a thick line between government contracts and those who award them.
Jessica Walberg, 32, of Sioux Falls is the office manager for South Dakotans for Open and Clean Government, which is trying to put a lengthy law of a similar name before voters in November. She said the group is pushing for 24,000 signatures, well beyond the 16,776 needed to bring the act to the ballot.
Walberg, who worked for Bruce Whalen during his run for U.S. House, said some parts of the act have worked in other states, but the effort is coming from South Dakota residents. Momentum built in summer when school districts sued the state for underfunding education, she said.
"We shouldn't be suing ourselves," Walberg said.
And here is more on the open contract idea:
Another section of the act states that someone who employs a legislator or legislative staffer may not receive a government contract until the employee has been out of that position for one year; it makes exceptions for those who had been in that field before working in government.
A separate section also deals with government contracts. It says someone in a position to award a contract can't accept contributions from the contract recipient until two years after the contract expires.
The act also would require the secretary of state to publish online for 10 years a summary of each government contract.
Secretary of State Chris Nelson received the South Dakota Open and Clean Government Act petition last month but said he typically doesn't read them until they get the signatures.
Rapid City mail carrier Tonchi Weaver is another initiative organizer. She said the sections about government contracts are of particular interest to her.
"Just tell me where my tax dollars are going and just let me know what's going on in Pierre," she said in summary of the act.
Weaver, 53, who became a Republican in the 1990s, said elected officials too often stay in the game as lobbyists after they leave office.
"There are all kinds of things that go on that aren't particularly legal and aren't particularly ethical either," she said.
So now during the legislative session, we have the lobbyists fighting over money. And by the time the election cycle comes around, we may have lobbyists fighting to keep taxpayers funding their efforts to get taxpayers funding. No wonder the state government grew from $2.5 billion to 3.3 billion under the Rounds administration. So how high is the Governor going today.
Bob Mercer has a report in today’s Mitchell Daily Republic that starts out with this:
Two years of work by the state Board of Regents to bring a supersized Internet system to South Dakota for university research and scientific experiments is about to pay off.
Gov. Mike Rounds plans to recommend in his budget speech today that the legislature approve the additional funding necessary to operate the system.
And this sounds like the private sector will benefit from the taxpayer supported extravagance:
Rounds was joined at the announcement Monday afternoon by regents President Harvey Jewett of Aberdeen and officials representing various telecommunications companies from across South Dakota, which will own and operate the fiber-optic system.
The report says that the system will include the six universities, the Sioux Falls University Center, Homestake mine, EROS, and the state government complex in Pierre. The report noted that the four technical institutes were excluded. Seems like Higher Ed will continue to prosper under the Rounds administration as small schools continue to wonder how will they survive and our South Dakota roads fall apart.
I doubt that the plan includes making it easier for taxpayers to understand where all their taxes are being spent.