Rounds unveils $10m for public universities in new state budget

Associated Press

Associated Press

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds proposed a $3.3 billion state budget Dec. 5 that includes a $10 million dollar boost to the state-owned universities, including SDSU.

The additional funding would go toward supporting teachers and students working on research projects, pay for additional student scholarships and hire personnel needed because of enrollment increases.

The universities seek to add the equivalent of 88 full-time jobs, with many of those positions part-time. Many of those positions would support research projects designed to help keep South Dakota’s students in the state.

Rounds also recommended a 3 percent across-the-board pay raise for state employees, with those below the midpoint of their salary ranges getting an extra 2.5 percent. That’s the standard pay raise approved in the budget in most years.

The governor said $35.6 million of the general fund increase would go to school districts, colleges and technical schools.

The governor’s budget proposal calls for spending more than $1.1 billion from general state taxes and other revenue, such as the sales tax in the budget year that begins July 1. More than $1.3 billion would come from federal funds, and another $846 million would come from other state funds, such as the motor fuel taxes dedicated to road and bridge work.

The 2007 Legislature will have the final say on the budget.

The governor said proposed spending will rise faster than expected revenue next year, so he proposed using $6.4 million in reserves to balance the budget. Tapping reserves is better than boosting taxes, he said.

Spending from state general funds would rise by nearly $76 million for ongoing programs, with most of that increase going to education and social programs.

Rounds proposed a 3 percent boost in state aid to school districts for general operating expenses, an increase of $16.9 million. Other money going to schools will support technology programs, special education and the state’s four post-secondary technical institutes.

The governor proposed that social programs receive an extra $33.8 million next year, with nearly all the increased spending being allocated to Medicaid, the state-federal program that pays the medical bills of poor people.

State spending on Medicaid will increase by nearly $17 million because the state’s share of the cost will rise from 36.5 percent this year to 39.25 percent next year, Rounds said. Federal regulations require the state to pay a bigger share because South Dakota’s growth in per capita income has led the nation in recent years, he said.

A 3 percent inflationary increase in payments to nursing homes, doctors and others will add another $13 million in Medicaid spending, Rounds said. Additional spending will be required because Medicaid will no longer cover some juvenile treatment programs, he said.

The governor’s budget proposes spending nearly $3 million on meth-related programs that include a treatment unit for inmates at the women’s prison in Pierre, a special drug court that would treat some addicts without putting them in prison and an education campaign to be presented in schools.