The Legislature adjourned at about 4:00 on Friday afternoon after passing the general appropriations bill for the fiscal year which begins July 1. The total budget is slightly over $5.5 billion. Of that amount, nearly half (49 percent) is for education. Taking care of people accounts for 36 percent, and protecting the public accounts for ten percent. The remaining five percent is for all the rest of state government.
Despite earlier concerns about not being able to find the 0.3% increase for education, appropriations committee members were able to find cuts in other areas to raise teacher salaries, provide a slight increase for community support providers, and help state employees with health insurance costs. This budget is $71 million lower than the current FY17 budget. It also reflects a reduction of 41.6 FTEs for the state.
The funding bill for the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory in Brookings was passed on a vote of 29-6 in the Senate and 60-6 in the House. It redirects about eight cents/acre of the agricultural land property tax relief to make bond payments for the lab. Farmers and ranchers will see the remaining property $2.2 million property tax relief reflected in the general school levy. SB35 reduces the levy for ag land from $1.568 per thousand dollars of valuation to $1.507.
Other key components of the lab funding include taking $8.6 million from the Livestock Disease Emergency Fund, the Animal Remedy Fund, and SDSU/ADRDL in one-time money. The remaining $50.1 million will be bonded for 25years at four percent interest. In addition, annual operation expenses of $800,000 will be covered by an increase in registration fees on pet foods and animal remedies.
During the 2017 session, several bills were passed to address issues contained in IM22. These include a limit on lobbyist gifts, creating a government accountability board to investigate allegations against state officials, requiring more disclosure in campaign finance, doubling the amount of time state officials are prohibited from lobbying after leaving office, and creating whistleblower protections for government employees who report suspected abuses.
We are scheduled to return on March 27 for Veto Day.
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