The main run of the 2013 Legislative Session wrapped up right before midnight last Friday, March 8, with passage of the state budget. The FY2014 budget, which starts July 1, balances the budget without raising taxes, yet provides additional funding for education and Medicaid. The projected general fund revenues for FY2014 are slightly over $1.3 billion. In broad terms, the spending breakdown is:
- 46% for education;
- 39% for helping people through Medicaid and social services;
- 10% for public safety; and
- 5% to run the rest of state government.
Looking back over the past Session, one key accomplishment was passage of SB70, the Public Safety Improvement Act. The act will keep violent and career offenders behind bars, yet allow non-violent offenders to live and work in their communities under improved treatment and supervision programs. A new 24/7 monitoring program for substance abuse will ensure swift and certain sanctions for offenders. The Act calls for improved victim notification and restitution collection, and it requires that all of these programs be measured and evaluated for effectiveness. The Public Safety Improvement Act is projected to save our state tens of millions of dollars in prison costs while keeping South Dakota safer.
The legislature developed a multi-faceted approach to building South Dakota’s economy and creating jobs through a package of bills. SB235 creates the Building South Dakota Fund which will use contractor’s excise taxes and other money to provide incentives for projects that create jobs and promote economic activity. Other legislation continues the tourism promotion tax to help local communities promote the tourism industry, creates incentives for wind energy facilities by providing tax rebates of about 2% of their overall project costs, revises the distribution of the wind energy tax to invest more in township road infrastructure, and enhances ethanol exports.
A couple of bills dealt with agricultural land tax assessments. SB6 deals with instances where the actual use of agricultural land differs from the land use category specified by soil classification standards. In these cases, the landowner may request the Director of Equalization to examine the land and determine whether to adjust the assessed value of the land. HB1165 asks the Ag Land Tax Assessment Oversight Task Force to look at the school general fund tax levies and determine whether the ratio of general fund money coming from agricultural land is appropriate. The bill also mandates that the task force consider other taxes paid by agricultural property and the relationship of the assessed value of agricultural property to the assessed value of all property.
Several bills were adopted to make government more efficient. SB45 permits citizens to renew their driver’s license online once every ten years, rather than standing in line at the licensing station. HB1043 allows the Department of Revenue to establish an electronic title system for motor vehicles. The legislature approved several bills brought by state agencies to eliminate outdated or obsolete statutes.
There were 492 bills introduced this Session (250 in the House and 242 in the Senate). As of last Friday, the governor had signed 154 bills into law; 107 are on the governor’s desk awaiting signature. If the governor vetoes any bills, they will be considered when legislators return to Pierre on March 25.
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