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Lawmakers to study county, nursing home funding models this summer


State lawmakers will spend the summer looking at two major topics: funding for counties and long-term care.

The issues have plagued the state for years.

The constitutionally mandated 40-day legislative session is sometimes too short session to tackle really big topics.

Legislative leaders want to take a look at county funding and mandated services. Counties are responsible for carrying out elections, provide for indigent care, as well as public safety.

Increased costs for services are also straining county budgets. A state law known as the Cutler-Gabriel Amendment limits how much revenue gets raised from property taxes. That’s a primary source of funding for counties.

Republican State Senator Randy Deibert is the chair of the summer study. He said there’s a history of the legislature mandating counties fund services.

“We really need to dig into that to see what the counties should be funding and what the state can be funding,” Deibert said. “We’ve seen over the last seven years the sales tax bills for counties to allow them to tax to build facilities have failed in the legislature. We’re looking at a fresh approach of looking deeper into how counties are funded and what they’re paying for and see what resources are available besides property taxes.”

Another major topic lawmakers want to look at is sustainable models for long-term care facilities.

South Dakota has seen several nursing home closures in the last five years. About a dozen are at risk of closing now.

State lawmakers are funding nursing homes at 100 percent methodology for the upcoming fiscal year.

Mark Deak is the executive director of South Dakota Healthcare Association. He’s thankful for the increased funding.

“In terms of going forward, very pleased to see the focus will stay on long term care where it needs to stay,” Deak said. “Hoping that we can figure out how to sustain that funding and look at ways to improve what we’re offering."

Some want the legislature to study affordable childcare. They say access to that is a workforce issue.

Summer studies typically result in bills brought to the legislature next session.

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.