Bureaus Present Budget Proposals To Lawmakers
By Kealey Bultena
Lawmakers trying to iron out South Dakota’s budget are polling state agencies about proposed cuts. That’s tough work when Governor Dennis Daugaard recommends cutting ten percent across the board.
The Joint Appropriations committee is comprised of House and Senate leaders from both parties who begin work on the budget the day the session starts. More than a dozen departments are waiting to present their numbers, but committee members have seventeen budget proposals in hand. Appropriations Chair Representative Dean Wink says the financial plans are showing reductions.
"To this date, all seventeen of them have complied with the governor’s request to cut their general fund budgets by ten percent," Wink says.
That’s true; however, in the case of School and Public Lands, it didn’t happen on the first try.
"We agree some cuts could be made to our budget; however, we are concerned our office will not be able to carry out its constitutional duty if you accept the governor’s budget recommendation," Commissioner Jarrod Johnson says.
Johnson’s proposal scaled back about $12,000, just two percent of the bureau’s budget. The proposal didn’t cut salaries of state employees. Then the commissioner asked for an additional $800,000 to maintain high-risk dams, against the governor’s suggestion. Vice Chair Senator Corey Brown was not impressed.
"I’m asking you to maybe recalibrate your thinking here, because I’m not sure you understand the gravity of what this committee is faced with looking at this year. We’re talking about ten percent cuts to those who provide for mentally challenged kids down in Sioux Falls. We’re talking about teachers and educators across the state; we’re talking about higher education," Brown says. "I guess I almost feel like it’s a little bit of an insult to come into this committee and maybe not have tried to prioritize those things and at least show us what ten percent worth of cuts is going to look like in your office."
A few days after the first meeting, School and Public Lands presented the committee with a revised budget – one that eliminates ten percent. Deputy Commissioner Justin Ohleen explains.
"We’re not entirely sure how we’ll get there yet. If that means garnishing across the board all of our employees’ salaries, if that includes personal pay cuts for the commissioner, which was not planned for at this time but could be an option. It also means possibly losing an employee that’s on staff right now. We’re still working through those specifics to get down to that number," Ohleen says.
School and Public Lands isn’t the only agency that doesn’t know the details of a ten percent reduction. That isn’t the case for the Department of Public Safety. That bureau presents a budget that slashes just more than ten percent of the department’s budget.
"This includes a $378,000 reduction in general funds, or a 10.3 percent reduction," newly-appointed Secretary of Public Safety Trevor Jones says.
A chunk of that comes out of State Radio, the dispatchers who handle Highway Patrol calls. Acting Superintendent Major Randy Hartley says the department will purge three full time positions and consolidate dispatchers overnight. He says the quality of service won’t change.
"There are three locations in South Dakota that have state radio operations: Huron, Pierre, and Rapid City. During the nighttime hours, particularly the early morning hours, the radio traffic tends to be lesser," Hartley says.
Hartley says a dispatcher at any location could broadcast statewide, so the department chose to cut positions that were already vacant.
Public Safety also found more than $100,000 in savings from Emergency Services. Jones details the changes.
"The division will pool secretarial resources to eliminate a half-time secretarial position; they will utilize federal funding sources to perform EMT training," Jones says. "Finally, the fire marshal’s office will shift $10,000 in personal services, the cost to the administration of the new fire safe cigarette fund."
The Department of Public Safety’s budget also cuts the Secretary’s salary by $10,000. Like many other bureaus, Public Safety is looking to make large cuts that have small impacts on South Dakotans.
Committee members have already logged hours of testimony, and they haven’t heard from the two departments that spend the majority of general fund dollars. Proposals from the Department of Education and the Department of Social Services are scheduled in a few weeks.
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