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Democrats Criticize Budget Surplus

July 16, 2012, 9:51 PM by Brady Mallory

Democrats Criticize Budget Surplus
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

Some South Dakota lawmakers are criticizing a $47.8 million surplus in the state budget.  Law requires the money to be put into reserves.

In a press release, Democratic Senate Leader Jason Frerichs said, “This is not a budget to celebrate.  This is a wake-up call that we are stock-piling the peoples’ money while we are hurting our children in school, raising property taxes and sacrificing our future.”

The numbers break down like this: Tax collections were $24,002,181 higher than expected and state agencies spent $13.8 million less than they were appropriated. Additionally, the 2012 Legislature intentionally left $10 million unspent to replenish state reserve funds that were used to respond to Missouri River flooding and the mountain pine beetle infestation in 2011.

"I think the question we need to be asking is how big does our mattress need to get?" Senator Angie Buhl, (D) Sioux Falls, said.

Buhl said the total makes past cuts to education and senior programs unnecessary.

"Especially when you see schools close, community nursing homes close," Buhl said.  "Those don't come back when revenues come back.  These are impacts that small towns feel with one-time cuts."

In a written statement, Governor Dennis Daugaard said he is happy the economy is getting stronger.

"We continue to meet the goal of balancing the budget in a conservative manner without raising taxes," Daugaard said.

Senator Deb Peters, (R) Hartford, said she did not expect this much money to be left over. 

"Obviously we were a little too conservative," Peters said.

Peters said she and her colleagues tightened the purse strings because of an uncertain and failing economy.  Next winter when lawmakers revise the 2012 budget and make plans for 2013, this money will be funneled back into education, senior programs and other areas needed.  

"We want to use the taxpayer money the best we can to educate our community, provide for the elderly and take care of the folks who can't take care of themselves," Peters said.

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