PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A legislative committee finished work Thursday on a proposed $3.9 billion state budget that makes few changes in Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard's spending plan for next year.
Daugaard had proposed 10 percent cuts in nearly every state agency to rectify a projected $127 million deficit. With the governor's cooperation, lawmakers earlier in the week passed several bills to soften the effects of budget cuts on school districts, nursing homes and other facilities that provide medical services to poor people in the Medicaid program.
The Joint Appropriations Committee rejected other attempts Thursday to add more money to state aid to schools and the state's reimbursement to Medicaid providers.
The only spending increase the panel approved was $100,000 to the Legislature's own budget to allow a couple of study committees to meet this summer.
The budget bill next goes to the full House and Senate, which plan to vote on it on Friday, the last day of the legislative session's main run. Lawmakers return to the Capitol for a final day on March 28 to consider vetoes issued by the governor and any other last-minute business.
Schools use a combination of local property taxes and state aid to fund general operations, and the governor's original proposal would have cut both by 10 percent. The Legislature passed a bill freezing local property tax levies and using $12 million in unexpectedly high state tax collections from this year to give school districts one-time money. The two measures in combination reduce the 10 percent cut to 6.6 percent next year.
Lawmakers used another $12 million, available because the growth in people on Medicaid has been lower than expected, to give a one-time boost to some medical facilities. The extra money reduces the cut to 6 percent overall, but the plan would give smaller cuts to nursing homes and other facilities that rely most heavily on Medicaid for financial support.
For example, nursing homes that provide critical access in some regions or get more than two-thirds of their revenue from Medicaid would get only a 1.8 percent cut. Primary care doctors and pediatricians would get a 4.5 percent cut. Hospitals, which do not rely on Medicaid to provide much of their income, would get an 11.5 percent cut, but the state in return will continue support for graduate medical training.
The effect of the cuts on each kind of nursing home or other facility is not included in the budget bill. The Appropriations Committee will set percentages of cuts for those facilities in instructions that will go to state officials running the Medicaid program.
Representatives of nursing homes said earlier that the changes will help those facilities because many might have been destroyed by a 10 percent cut.
Deb Bowman, a member of the governor's staff, said programs that provide services to children, the elderly and people with developmental disabilities will get the smallest cuts.
The Appropriations Committee rejected about a dozen proposed changes that would have given more money to schools and Medicaid providers. The failed amendments would have taken extra money out of state reserves or several trust funds. Some proposals would have cut other programs and used the savings to help schools and medical facilities.
Sen. Billie Sutton, D-Burke, said extra money should be taken from a trust fund to support medial facilities.
"The people this funding will affect for the most part can't take care of themselves," Sutton said. "We can help the people who need it the most."
But other committee members said the state should not tap reserves or trust funds because that money should be saved for future emergencies and other uses.
Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, said the Legislature and the governor's office worked hard to soften the cuts as much as they could.
"We've been doing everything we can to minimize the impact to those who do need us the most," Peters said.
Rep. Betty Olson, R-Prairie City, sought unsuccessfully to cut all state general funding for South Dakota Public Broadcasting and use the savings for schools and medical facilities. She said Public Broadcasting could offset the funding cut by selling advertising.
Olson also failed in her effort to cut state support for the State Fair in Huron.
Rep. Shawn Tornow, R-Sioux Falls, asked the committee to cut about $880,000 in federal funds used by the Department of Public Safety for consulting and advertising related to safe driving. The public believes ads warning about the danger of drunken driving or distracted driving amount to fluff and unnecessary spending, he said.
The committee rejected Tornow's plan after lawmakers said the elimination of such ads might cause South Dakota to lose federal highway construction money.
Rep. Tad Perry, R-Ft. Pierre, sought to get $2.4 million from an aviation fund to give state employees a one-time bonus, but the panel rejected the plan because money in that fund might be needed for other purposes. Because of the state's budget problems, state employees are not getting salary increases for the third straight year.
Some of the sharpest debate came when the committee decided to add $100,000 to the legislative budget so several committees can be formed to study issues this summer. It reduces the size of the Legislature's budget cut from 10 percent to about 8 percent.
Supporters said lawmakers need to hold study committees to get information a variety of issues, but opponents said the Legislature should not add to its own budget when it is insisting other agencies take full 10 percent cuts.
"This sets in my opinion a very bad precedent. It says do what I say, not what I do," Peters said.