Week 5 of the Legislative Session

On February 15, 2011, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Hello again from Pierre.

This week was full of good and bad bills again. Many were defeated in committees, but some live to see the House Floor for votes by the whole body! We now only have a week left before crossover day so the pace will continue to stay very hectic. It is amazing how many visitors I have in the Speakers Office. The discussions will vary from soliciting support on certain legislation, asking which committee a bill will be sent, advice on different legislation, when a bill will be voted on, if a vote can be delayed and occasionally just a visit.

I have had a tremendous amount of emails, I can tell you that I do get to read them all, but I have not had time to respond the way I would normally do. I do have an intern, but I realize that it would not be the same as a personal note from me. Since some emails need to be responded to I will indeed use my Intern to do some of the replies, my apologies. I do appreciate all the advice and concerns expressed in the emails. Our job this year is extremely difficult and not very popular.

It is unfortunate that as things get tough people want to blame someone, like me, for the situation we find ourselves in. The National economy meltdown was something that the legislature could never have predicted and has very little, if any, recourse to correct. As the National Government decided to adopt the plan to offer stimulus money, the Governor and the Legislature thought it prudent to accept the money in hopes that the tough cuts could be avoided and the economy could recover, we were wrong. Then the second stimulus was offered, we again accepted the stimulus with the same hopes in our sights, that our economy would recover, again that did not work. We were now 2 years down the road of no return and now we also had a major revenue source for the state, bank franchise tax, finding the rules changing for them and their profit margins disappeared leaving us with a $26,000,000 dollar over payment that needed to be paid back. We are now faced with the decisions that we were trying to avoid 2 plus years ago, not to mention our revenue levels have now shrunk to the 2008 levels. With 47% of the State’s general funds budget going to Education, 37% of the general funds going to providers and 12% of our general budget going to protecting people, our budget, without revenue increases, needs to have some cuts to these departments or we cannot balance our budget.

I have heard that a petition has been circulated around Milbank asking for support to encourage the Legislature and the Governor to consider a $150,000,000 million dollar tax increase. I will certainly share that information with all, when it is made available to me, but it will be a hard sell with the current makeup of this legislative group to pass such a measure, but I do appreciate the efforts and the support many are giving me as we try to figure out just how to balance the budget. I share the frustration that a solution that seems so easy will be so hard to obtain, if obtainable at all. I continue to look for ways to soften or lessen the proposed cuts, but we need every suggestion we can get, so please send them to me. The Superintendents, from home, have been working very hard to give us suggestions, as well as our administrators of our long term care facilities. We need all to help bring South Dakota through this unfortunate economic crisis.

Again my contact info is rep.rausch@state.sd.us or valrausch@hotmail.com. Or call and leave a message at 605-880-5015.

Sincerely, Speaker Val Rausch


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