Simplified: Gov. Kristi Noem stood before lawmakers and the public on Tuesday to deliver her annual budget address, proposing a more than 7.2 billion in spending for the next fiscal year. Many pieces of the budget have statewide impact, as well as a couple that hit closer to home. Here's a closer look.
Why it matters
- First off, it's important to remember that this is just a starting point for the state budget. Noem has her wish list laid out, but it'll ultimately be up to lawmakers during the 2024 session to determine how to dole out state money.
- This budget is also significant because it's the last year the state will have to spend its federal pandemic relief funds. Noem is proposing spending most of the remaining $105 million of it on infrastructure, specifically state water and wastewater projects.
- A few items that – if passed – would have a big impact on Sioux Falls, specifically are additional support for higher education/workforce, funding to fully pay for a men's prison in Lincoln county and a proposed 4% increase to salaries for teachers, state employees, nursing homes, community service providers and developmental disability providers.
"I am not proposing conservative spending because our economy is weak," Noem said. "I am proposing conservative spending because we are strong – and I want South Dakotans to continue to thrive for generations to come."
Tell me more about what's in the budget
Here's a quick breakdown of the highlights – again, noting that this is a high-level wish list from the governor that'll likely see lots of changes large and small as it makes its way through the legislature.
Let's talk teacher pay. Noem mentioned in her address that funding for K-12 schools in the state has gone up 26% since she took office, but teacher salaries remain among the lowest in the nation. The governor said she'd like to see solutions for making sure the increases that go to schools – including her proposed 4% increase for the next year – are ultimately passed on to teachers.
"Our teachers do incredible things for our kids, and they deserve a paycheck that reflects that," Noem said.
What about the prison? The state earlier this year announced plans to build a new men's prison in rural Lincoln County – a decision that sparked a lot of big feelings from residents in that area. Noem didn't note this discontent at all, but she did recommend paying the entire bill up front with a one-time allocation of $228 million.
What's coming for higher ed? Noem proposed additional funds for equipment for the state's technical colleges. She also wants to see the state spend $6 million in one-time funds to create a Center for Quantum Information Science and Technology to offer students at Dakota State University, South Dakota State University, University of South Dakota, and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
What's not in the budget?
Well, it depends on who you ask as to what they'd mention first.
But something that came up from Democratic legislators following the address was a lack of funding for K-12 school lunches – something top of mind for a lot of parents following a recent announcement that the Sioux Falls School District can no longer serve kids who hit a certain negative lunch balance.
"Hungry children struggle to learn. We’re a rich state and can meet this need if it is a policy priority.” read a statement from Sen. Reynold Nesiba and Rep. Oren Lesmeister.
- Democratic lawmakers also noted in a statement that they'd like to see Noem work more closely with the tribal leaders in the state.
And, keeping in mind the person writing this is a mother of two young children, while there was a lot of discourse about families, supporting kids and the foster care system, Noem did not mention an issue that's been gaining a lot of traction in Sioux Falls: childcare.
Another item that's been big in recent years but didn't get a mention this year was the need for affordable housing. It's possible that's because the state is already working on spending $200 million allocated last year to help solve this issue.
What happens next?
The 2024 legislative session kicks off on Jan. 9 with Noem's State of the State address, where she'll talk more in-depth about her priorities for the state and how things are going.
Then, it'll be up to lawmakers to come up with a balanced budget before session ends in March.