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Appropriations Committee Moving Forward Without Governor Budget, For Now

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Jenifer Jones
/
SDPB

  

UPDATE: Governor Kristi Noem is announcing she will deliver her budget address to lawmakers on Wednesday, the tenth legislative day. Noem made the announcement after this piece was produced.

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Lawmakers anxiously await Governor Kristi Noem’s first budget.
 
Noem gave legislators a glance into her administration’s priorities at the beginning of the session, but now she must show how they plan to pay for it.
 
Traditionally, state lawmakers rely on the governor’s budget to craft the appropriations bill. This year’s appropriations committee has a lot of new faces.

Governor Noem is keeping a tight lid on not only her budget, but also when lawmakers and the state will hear about it. She says her office is still working on that budget right now.
 
“It was very helpful for Governor Dennis Daugaard to bring us into the discussion,” Noem says. “So, we’ve already had hearings with those departments and agencies to talk about why they’re requesting more funds in this area, hear him talk about why his budget looked the way that it did. And I was able to ask questions too, which was great.”
 
Last year, Governor Daugaard recommended budgets of around 4.8 billion dollars for fiscal year 19 and 20. Thirty-five percent, of which, is federal dollars.
 
State rules require a budget from the governor by the tenth legislative day. Only then, can budget wizards in appropriations really take off and craft—essentially—the one bill that’s required of state lawmakers.
 
“So, we’re pretty far down the road and we will pull that together. It’ll look different, but a lot of them will still see some of the same themes because I really do appreciate the decisions Governor Daugaard has made over the years, but I do think I’ll have some other priorities that I’ll be looking at as well.”
 
That leaves the joint legislative appropriations committee waiting, at least until January 23rd.
Appropriations relies heavily on the governor’s budget and priorities. So right now, they’re looking at Daugaard’s budget and pouring over state agencies whose appropriation requests don’t change much year after year.
 
Senator John Wiik is the first-year chair of the joint committee on appropriations.
 
“In the meantime, until we hear Governor Noem’s official budget, we thought it was the best use of our time to examine these agencies requests, dig in, learn what we need to learn,” Wiik says. “Especially for our newer members, to just dive in and learn how each agency functions so that they get a better grasp of where your tax dollars are going.”
 
Wiik calls those agency requests the backbone of the budget.
 
He says education, health and human services, and corrections all have a lot of moving parts in terms of funding.
 
The appropriations committee in both the House and Senate is comprised of many new faces. Key legislators from appropriations in recent legislatures either term limited out last session, voted out, or simply not placed in the appropriations committee this year.
 
Wiik says legislators are used to lawmakers being term limited out, but...
 
“There were some committee appointments that were a little unclear at first, but I think everything works out for the best and I think we’re going to have a great committee to get this budget done on time.”
 
State Senator Deb Peters resigned to take a job elsewhere, and Representatives David Anderson and John Lake were assigned to other committees.
 
That kind of shuffling concerns some lawmakers.
 
State Senator Susan Wismer is a democrat from Britton. She served on appropriations from 2009 to 2014.
 
She says lawmakers are at a notable disadvantage when it comes to crafting their own budget, especially in previous years.
 
“Because we’re only here for less than 40 days and the staff is here year round,” Wismer says. “Particularly, when the budget doesn’t come out and we’re not able to use those first ten days as efficiently as we could have, it just means we have that much less time to grab ahold of the numbers and figure out what the options are.”
 
Wismer says she’s certain Governor Noem is taking her time to find monies to fund her priorities, like rural broadband, pheasant habitat initiatives, or reigning in the meth and opioid epidemic in the state.
 
“Appropriations often depends on the governor’s Bureau of Finance and Management for their information,” Wismer says. “Particularly, me as a minority member, always is wondering what else there is to the story that I’m not being told.”
 
In 2011, then-Governor Daugaard delivered his budget on the sixth legislative day, in which he called for reductions to every state agency. The session is heading into its third week. Revenue collections are up from adopted estimates, giving Governor Noem more opportunity to fund her priorities.

The Center for Western Studies at Augustana University supports Politics and Public Policy reporting on SDPB.