South Dakota lawmakers approve roughly $4.9B state budget

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota lawmakers passed a roughly $4.9 billion state budget early Wednesday, providing a funding boost for education and state employees and larger-than anticipated spending hikes for nursing homes and community support providers.

The 53-6 House vote to approve the budget capped the main portion of the 2019 session as lawmakers worked past midnight ahead of a potential blizzard affecting areas of South Dakota. Earlier Wednesday, the Senate voted 27-2 for the measure that sets state spending for the upcoming 2020 budget year starting July 1.

The Republican-controlled Legislature approved big increases for nursing homes as recent closures have hit communities, including an announcement last week that one in Huron would shut down by May due to a lack of money. Joint Committee on Appropriations Co-Chair Sen. John Wiik said he talked to every senator he could about priorities, and all said lawmakers needed to find a solution for nursing homes.

“Is that going to solve the problem entirely? No. But it’s a good start, and it’s a good step,” Wiik said of the inflationary hikes.

Lawmakers approved larger funding increases than Gov. Kristi Noem originally suggested for health care providers in her January budget address. Those include a 6.5 percent hike for community support providers, who help people with intellectual or developmental disabilities live independently in their communities, and a 10 percent increase for nursing homes.

South Dakota’s current nursing home Medicaid rate is about $146 per day, short of the roughly $181 daily cost of care, resulting in a $42 million annual shortfall, according to the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations.

The state spending plan includes 2.5 percent increases for education and state workers, matching the hikes proposed in Noem’s budget recommendation. The budget for the next fiscal year includes roughly $1.7 billion in general state spending, about $59 million over the current budget year.

The budget calls for spending roughly $1.8 billion in federal funds and $1.4 billion in other state money such as highway funding. The Legislature focuses mostly on how to spend the roughly $1.7 billion general fund portion of the budget.

Republican Rep. Chris Karr, Appropriations Committee co-chair, said the measure balances the state’s budget for the 130th year. But GOP Sen. Stace Nelson, who voted against the budget bill, said lawmakers received it early in the morning and that he wanted more time to review it.

“This is the most important bill, and I regret that we’re rushing it through,” Nelson said.

The 2019 session that started Jan. 8 is Noem’s first as governor. Legislators will return to Pierre on March 29 for the session’s last day to weigh potential vetoes that could come from Noem.

Lawmakers this session also reshaped the current year’s budget to add funding including $5 million for expanding rural broadband, $4.6 million for improving state radio infrastructure and money to allow health care provider raises to start April 1. The bills head to Noem for her signature.

“I believe this is a wise use of the resources we have,” Wiik said. “I believe this is a responsible budget.”

Categories: Local News, Politics & Elections, South Dakota News