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Politics

Noem proposes big projects after saying her 'first thought' was refusing federal money

Governor Kristi Noem acknowledges a big portion of the revenue in her proposed budget is from outside the state.

“It’s a giant handout from Washington, D.C.," she said Tuesday during her annual budget address at the Capitol in Pierre.

The last COVID-19 relief bill from Congress included nearly $1 billion for South Dakota. That money and other federal stimulus funds make it especially easy to balance the state budget this year.

But the state always balances its budget. Noem said this will be the 133rd consecutive year. She said people are asking why she doesn’t send some of the federal money back.

“That was my first thought, too — to refuse the money," she said. "But here’s the problem: Giving that money back means that the money will go to another state — to California, New Jersey, Illinois, maybe Michigan or Minnesota. That money is not going back into taxpayer pockets, and it's not going to go back to reduce the debt that this country has. It will be spent somewhere else other than South Dakota.”

So Noem is proposing big projects in her fiscal year 2023 budget. She wants to spend $660 million on “once-in-a-generation" water projects, although she did not name specific projects in her speech.

"I know some of you feel strongly about particular water projects in your community," she told legislators Tuesday. "Routing this money through existing programs at the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, we will ensure a fair, objective, and impartial process that makes the best use of taxpayers’ dollars."

Noem also wants to spend $200 million for housing grants to help build the state’s workforce, among numerous other proposals.

Her total proposed budget is about $6 billion. Lawmakers will consider the budget plan during the annual legislative session starting in January.

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