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Lawmakers turn to budget in final two days of session

Melissa Hamersma Sievers

With several contentious bills out of the way, state lawmakers are now zeroing in on the budget.

Some are cautiously optimistic the budget will get set by Thursday.

Appropriators are piecing together the state budget department-by-department.

Republican Sen. Gary Cammack, of Union Center, says legislators are working on a few odds and ends left this session.

“We’re going to be working down the line on different items we’re considering, but we got a lot of the big ones done,” Cammack says.

However, there’s still $90 million in ongoing funding that is not yet appropriated.

The Senate rejected a House proposal to remove the sales tax on food. That would save taxpayers roughly $82 million.

The House has been proposing tax cuts all session, which have been resisted by Senate Republicans and Gov. Kristi Noem.

House Speaker Spencer Gosch, of Glenham, says just because the money is there doesn’t mean it needs to get spent.

“We did a good faith effort to do what we do—what Republicans are supposed to do. The Senate disagreed with tax cuts. That’s where we lay.”

Lawmakers still have not set cost-of-living adjustments for state employees, educators or community health providers. The governor has called for 6 percent increases. Inflation is now over 7 percent.

Gosch says he’s confident lawmakers will have a budget by Thursday. That’s the last day of the annual legislative session, except for one day on March 28 to consider the governor’s vetoes.