In South Dakota we often adjust plans because of weather. The last week of the 2019 legislature was scheduled to run through Wednesday, March 13, but with a record-breaking storm forecast, we worked to shorten it. On Tuesday, we started early and were told to expect a long day. The goal was to finish before the “mega storm” hit, so that legislators could get home. We were in and out of session several times, taking breaks so that Conference Committees could work out differences between Senate and House versions of final bills. Of top priority were bills with a fiscal impact, as those had to be done before the budget could be finished.
So much happens the last week of the legislature that it is hard to know what to share, but I suppose the budget is the big news – and fortunately, it is mostly good news. We were able to provide some relief to nursing homes for the remainder of the 2019 fiscal year (FY ‘19) and increase the reimbursement for FY ’20 by 10%. Those 2 things, along with the Governor’s $5 million for innovation grants, should help keep nursing homes operating, and looking for creative long-term solutions.
The FY ’20 budget also includes a 6-1/2% increase for community support providers (folks who help people with developmental disabilities) and 2-1/2% increases for teachers and state employees. Also included is funding to structurally balance the state employee health plan, money to confront the Meth epidemic and dollars to support the 211 information system. I am thankful the projections are positive enough that we can do these things – and meet the balanced budget requirement of our Constitution.
The other fiscal news is that the House and Senate could not agree on their competing bills to enact the “Partridge Amendment” – effectively “kicking the can down the road”. That amendment was part of the 2016 legislation that raised the state sales tax to 4.5 % to fund pay raises for teachers. It said that if we were ever able to tax Internet sales, the extra 0.5 % tax would be rolled back 0.1 % for every $20 million of Internet sales tax collected. It is unfortunate this remains unresolved since all of us know that a tax reduction delayed is one in jeopardy of being lost. Some would like that. I believe we need to live up to commitments made.
As mentioned at the top, the last “day” was unusual. After starting early on Tuesday, our final session started at 12:30 AM on Wednesday and adjourned at 2:40 AM. I had packed my pickup during one of the breaks and left directly from the Capitol for home. Driving through on and off fog, at 6:45 Wednesday morning, and still in a suit (with tie and sport coat tossed on the passenger seat), this worn out legislator pulled into the garage. It felt really good to be home!
In service to God and you,
John Mills, Representative, District 4 firstname.lastname@example.org OR John.Mills@sdlegislature.gov