Session in Pierre to focus on whether to spend or save - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Session in Pierre to focus on whether to spend or save

Posted:
PIERRE, S. D. (KTIV) South Dakota lawmakers have a spending problem that's setting up another budget battle in 2014. It's not a shortfall, but a surplus, and differing opinions on where to put the extra cash.

Every year, Democrats and Republicans debate whether schools are adequately funded.

“That's a tough question. According to the way the formula is, schools would get a 1.6% increase, this year,” said State Senator Dan Lederman, a Republican from Dakota Dunes.

Another bill expected to be up for debate deals with non-meandered lakes.

Those are public bodies of water that overflow onto private property.

The legislature will have to decide whether hunters and fisherman can traverse water on private property to get to that public lake or pond.

However, a $120-million windfall in unclaimed property prompted the Governor to suggest increasing school support by three-percent.

“The Governor's commission suggested a 3.8% increase. We have to at least get it to that,” suggested Vermillion Democrat Rep. Ray Ring.

Democrats have long accused the administration of intentionally underestimating state revenues and funneling too much money into reserves, under funding education and health care.

“The problem that I see is we seem to come up with one-time money every year, and I think that's shortchanging our kids,” said Ring.

South Dakota is one of 20 states that have chosen not to accept the federal Medicaid plan.

"I think it's for good reason. We don't know for sure if the federal government is going to be able to fund the program,” Lederman suggested.

"If we adopt it, put in a trigger clause, I don't think anybody's opposed to that. It says if the feds withdraw funding, we drop down our support for Medicaid,” countered Ring.

Ring said 40,000 South Dakotans stand to benefit.

"It's such a good deal for the state. We would be spending about $100 million of state funds to get about $2 billion in federal support,” he pointed out.

The session will put new responsibilities on Senator Lederman's plate. As the Assistant Majority Leader, Lederman said he'll spend less time drafting bills of his own and focus on getting legislation passed.

"I think we're doing a good job of running the state and we want to continue that,” he said.

However, a $5-million project started by the state to draw more workers has already been scrapped. The first million spent attracted just 100 workers.

"When you're talking economic development, you definitely want to try different things, and not everything's going to work,” said Lederman, who thinks another program should be put in its place.

Beyond the budget, there's a serious death penalty debate brewing in Pierre. With a Republican sponsoring a bill to end capital punishment in South Dakota, some say there's more support than ever before."

Another bill expected to be up for debate deals with non-meandered lakes.

Those are public bodies of water that overflow onto private property.

The legislature will have to decide whether hunters and fisherman can traverse water on private property to get to that public lake or pond.


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