Week 8

On February 29, 2008, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Week 8 of the 2008 session.

Hello again from Pierre.

What a final week! Very busy then slow then busy then slow and finally on Friday it was very crazy!! At least in the Appropriations committee. At the very end of session is when all of the bills that have spending in them are voted on by both houses and the conference committees then have the task of negotiating the differences between the House version and the Senate version. If they can come to an agreement we get to either approve or disapprove of that decision. If we do not agree the bill fails. Once all of the conferences are decided then the general spending bill can begin to plug all those numbers in and also make the amendments we’ve seen necessary after listening to all the agencies budgets. The whole process takes awhile, about 4 hours, and with 71 proposed amendments a lot of changes are made to the general bill. When we finally finished with all the amendments and passed the general bill out of committee it then needed to be printed with all the changes, about 3 hours. The House finally voted on the bill at 10:30pm and we were able to adjourn at about 11:00pm. A very long day.

As things usually go many are not satisfied with the final results. The Highway patrol budget was reduced by $2 Million dollars even though many tried to have the money put back in. The conference committee was not able to find a happy medium and the bill died. The Sec. of Public Safety, Tom Dravland said he can manage with out the money and would probably not spend it if he did receive it, so he got his wish in the end, sort of. State employees did receive an additional ½%, which brought their increase up to 3%, the care providers were also raised for 2.5 to 3% and finally the Education K-12 funding was increased from 2.5 to 3%. The .5% increase to be directed towards enhancing teacher salaries. In order to do these increases it will take almost $5 Million from our reserve accounts. If the economy goes into a long term slow down the money in the reserve accounts will not last very long, as it was we needed to use $11,000,000 to balance this year’s budget. Thank God we had the reserves to use. The Technical Schools received a $3 Million dollar increase for programming and maintenance and repair of their facilities. These 4 schools will be vital for the workforce necessary to tackle the major proposed projects in our near future, such as, Big Stone II, Hyperion Oil Refinery, Oil Pipeline, power plant by Mobridge and the possible building of the D,M & E rail line across the state. They will be working with these companies to develop the programs that will best fit these needs.

The overall budget for fiscal year 2009 will be $3,548,708,486 of that $1,207,785,260 will be General funds, $1,430,724,904 will be Federal funds and the remaining $910,198,322 will be from Other funds. It is a lot of money!! Hopefully we are spending it wisely.

March 17th will be VETO day and our last day of this session. The Governor has 14 days to consider the bills that were passed and if he vetos any of those bill we, the legislature, have an opportunity to override his veto. If there are no vetos then we will take care of the final reports and be done.
It has been my pleasure to serve you, District 4, these past 4 years and I hope you will support me again as the re-election process starts again. If you are not registered now is a good time to do so. Get registered and exercise your right to vote.

As always please contact me with any of your legislative concerns at 605-880-5015 or valrausch@hotmail.com or rep.rausch@state.sd.us Thank you and God Bless, Val


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