Here are a few highlights from week 5.
On Tuesday, Gov. Noem addressed a joint session to share her views on revised revenue projections. South Dakota continues to fair well economically during the pandemic.
Our responsible approach to managing money, combined with the stimulus money from the federal government has resulted in forecasts that are rosier than expected – showing the likelihood of an extra $125 million. The governor encouraged us to consider placing even more money into trust funds.
For some background, South Dakota established trust funds from the sale of some assets years ago. In 2001 interest on those trust funds added $12 million to the budget. Today, those same funds are expected to infuse $43 million. The success and benefit from these trust funds has been phenomenal. I agree that enlarging our trust funds is a great use for unexpected dollars. By doing so, we can ensure the benefit for generations to come and help keep taxes low.
HB1066 – I am pleased to join Rep. Deutsch and Sen. Wiik to support this important bill for schools in District 4. As long as the school is meeting the targeted teacher salary requirement, this bill would allow school districts to place temporary wind farm tax revenue into either their General or Capital Outlay fund. This flexibility will help schools choose whether the money is needed now or is better held for future building needs. The bill passed unanimously out of the House Education committee and will be heard on the House floor this coming week.
SB87 – This bill would allow for a type of health care coverage called a “Health Benefit Plan” to be offered through a “nonprofit agricultural organization.” Farm Bureau of South Dakota wants to offer this option to their members. There was a lengthy and informative debate on the House floor on Thursday. Some of the information shared, included that before “Obamacare,” 14 companies offered health insurance in South Dakota. Today there are only 2. I also learned that we have 80,000 uninsured people. Legislators who sell health insurance shared their frustrations with not being able to help families who want coverage, but can’t afford it. They stressed that increasing options and competition would help many. I listened closely and ultimately voted for it. It passed and now heads to the governor for final consideration.
COVID found the Capitol in a bigger way this week, with several legislators testing positive. Because I was in close contact with some of them, I am spending the weekend close to home and attended a legislative forum in Clear Lake on Saturday via Zoom. While I am thankful we have that option, “Zoom” isn’t like being together. Speaking of being together, a little good news.
The assisted living facility where my mother-in-law lives opened up this week because their residents have been vaccinated. That made for some happy reunions and long missed hugs – and offers a glimmer of hope for better days ahead.
In service to God and you,