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Eyes on 'dysfunctional' House budget committee as lawmakers enter final week


Tensions are high as state lawmakers craft the budget.

Governor Kristi Noem is criticizing one group that’s breaking away from session norms.

Some deciding factors could come down to House Democrats.

Lawmakers are working with billions in extra money this year. That money has come from increased sales tax collections and an influx of federal money from coronavirus relief packages.

Typically, House and Senate committees meet together to craft the budget down the stretch. That’s not happening.

Republican Representative Chris Karr is leading house efforts. He says they’re meeting separately to address bills.

“Bills come to House Approps and the House Approps meets to deal with those bills. Likewise, if bills go to Senate appropriations then the Senate appropriations meet separately," Karr says. "When we have bills come joint, then we meet jointly. So right now that’s what we’re dealing with, is bills that have gone to the separate committees.”

The several bills that have gone to House Appropriations have either died or set up debates that have gridlocked on the house floor. Proposals like $200 million for workforce housing, $15 million to a biomedical research facility in Sioux Falls, and $3 million to the National Music Museum—to name a few.

Governor Kristi Noem is not pleased with the group.

“We have a dysfunctional House Appropriations committee that’s being way more political than they are governing,” Noem says. “That’s not doing a service to the process that we have.”

House Republicans are split. Getting the budget past the finish line could come down to the 8 votes House Democrats have… Minority Leader Jaime Smith says they’ve been kept out of negotiations.

“It’s been acknowledged that our 8 votes in the House are probably dealmakers,” Smith says. “But, the communications from the House Appropriations Committee hasn’t been that way. We’re expecting to be a part of that process.”

Legislative leaders say they are confident the state will have a budget by the end of next week.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.