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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at www.sdpb.org/statehouse

SD Lawmakers React To Education Plan

Kealey Bultena
Governor Dennis Daugaard delivers the 2016 State of the State address.

Some local lawmakers from both political parties say they support Governor Dennis Daugaard’s plan to increase money for education. Two members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force say the governor is making adequately funding schools a priority. Both lawmakers still anticipate some changes to the governor’s initial plan.

Governor Dennis Daugaard wants to increase the sales tax by half of one percent to generate millions of dollars for education. He says schools can use the money to increase teacher pay, and the state can implement a mentoring program among other tools.

State Senator Deb Soholt co-chaired the Blue Ribbon Task Force.

"I just have to say that I’m extremely pleased and very excited about what the Governor had to say in the State of the State about the Blue Ribbon Education Task Force work, but then also more specifically about the proposals that he’s bringing forward that are just so important to ensure that we have great teachers in the classroom for our kids," Soholt says. 

Soholt says some of the plan’s nuances are different than the Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations. She says the plan is likely to change as lawmakers consider school funding.

The governor’s proposal shows a sales tax increase of one half of a cent generates about $107 million. He wants $40 million of that to go to property tax relief. The millions left and $19 million from a pension levy produce a final numbers of more than $86 million for schools. 

Democratic State Senator Billie Sutton says the dollar amount should be higher.

"At the end of the day, what that means for our plan is that it’s going to cost $122.5 million dollars. Again, that’s $122.5 million is what we view the target as," Sutton says. "In order to fund that, we are proposing a one penny sales tax with removing the sales tax on food."

Sutton says that plan can generate up to $130 million, which allows them to include suggested programs for recruiting and retaining teachers. He says Democrats also want to change the student-to-staff ratio the governor’s plan uses to allocate money to schools. He says that change specifically benefits small schools.

Sutton and other Democrats say they agree with Republicans that the governor set the right tone by focusing on education funding.