State employees one step closer to raise

Associated Press

Rising tax collections mean the state can afford to boost spending on schools and health care while giving state employees a long overdue pay raise next year, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Tuesday as he proposed a $4 billion state budget to the South Dakota Legislature.

Daugaard, a Republican, and the GOP-controlled Legislature last winter made deep cuts in education, health care and other programs to fix a $127 million shortfall for the current budget year. Daugaard on Tuesday proposed what he called modest spending increases in those key programs for the budget year beginning next July.

Daugaard’s spending plan includes 4.5 percent increases in state aid to school districts, state spending on universities and technical institutes, and reimbursements to nursing homes, clinics and other facilities that provide health care to poor people in the Medicaid program. But much of the increased spending would be one-time additions that would not be built into the base of ongoing spending expected in future years.

The governor also proposed a 3 percent across-the-board raise for state employees, whose paychecks have been frozen for three years because of budget problems. State employees also would get a one-time bonus equal to 5 percent of their annual salaries to partly offset their loss in purchasing power due to inflation in the years they got no raise.

The state’s university system would get an ongoing increase of 0.9 percent costing $1.4 million, with another 3.6 percent in one-time payments totaling $5.9 million. South Dakota’s four technical schools also would get a mix of ongoing and one-time money.

South Dakota public university faculty, however, are not guaranteed to see the raise. They are barred by state law from receiving across-the-board pay raises due to the SD Board of Regent’s Salary Competitiveness Plan, which established a different pay system for university faculty.