This is the final week of the Main Run of the 2015 Session, with adjournment set for Friday, March 13. This the time of Session when speculation runs wild about when we will actually finish our work, and how many – if any – vetoed bills we might consider when we return on March 30.
The transportation funding bill continues to change as we work through the legislative process. As amended by the House State Affairs committee, the bill would raise about $41 million for the state highway fund and about $17 million for county and township roads, with the option for counties to raise about $500,000 through the wheel tax and additional money through higher property taxes. This is about a fourth of the amount needed to optimize the life cycle of our road system, indicating that more work needs to be done.
Other hot topics during the last week include education funding, election reform, and the state budget. After the House Taxation committee killed a bill dealing with school Capital Outlay taxes, it was targeted to be revived on the Senate side. The goal of the bill is to limit how quickly capital outlay taxes can grow, and at the same time add $72 to the per-student allocation in the K-12 formula. There were also discussions about including the costs of sparsity, technology improvement, and student assessment into the K-12 formula, meaning that property tax payers will share in these expenses.
The Juvenile Justice bill was passed by the House on Tuesday morning. This bill is designed to prevent juveniles from becoming further involved in the juvenile justice system, improve outcomes by expanding assess to evidence-based interventions in the community, focus residential placements on youth who are a public safety risk, and ensure quality and sustainability of reforms. That’s legislator-talk for “kids who do dumb stuff should be punished and given the opportunity to learn how to not do that again. Kids who are dangerous should be put in detention.”
The Appropriations committee learned that the state economy is growing at a moderate rate, while the U.S. economy is growing at a faster rate than before. The revenue projections are less optimistic than they were when the Governor presented his budget proposal last December. The result is that legislators are spending the last week looking for ways to cut expenses.
Legislators will return to the Capitol on March 30. If you have any questions, please email me at Rep.Duvall@state.sd.us.