PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — There was a familiar face in Tuesday’s joint committee hearing on appropriations. 

Former Gov. Dennis Daugaard was in attendance watching his son-in-law Tony Venhuizen, while also serving in his role as grandfather. Venhuizen is no stranger to the South Dakota legislative session having served five years as chief of staff under Daugaard and current Gov. Kristi Noem. 

The Sioux Falls Republican is days into first term as a House representative for District 13. He told KELOLAND News after Noem’s State of State speech there’s been a learning curve about serving in the legislative branch instead of the executive branch of state government. 

“It’s definitely a different feeling and humbling to raise your hand and take the oath,” Venhuizen said. “Seeing it from the legislative side is very different. Working inside the caucus and seeing how that works is a new experience. Being on the appropriations committee and working with the legislative staff and day in and day out is a new experience.”

Venhuizen first worked in the Capitol under former Gov. Mike Rounds after being appointed to serve on the Board of Regents. He now works in trust and estate law in Sioux Falls and recently resigned his role on the Board of Regents ahead of taking his oath to become a state lawmaker. 

He said lawmakers on the appropriations committee, which oversees South Dakota’s budget, have already held some informal meetings ahead of Tuesday’s first public meeting. 

“It seems like the revenue is continuing to go up,” Venhuizen said. “A lot of big decisions to be made in appropriations.”

Venhuizen said some people may see appropriations as the committee where bad ideas fail. He’d like to look at it a different way. 

“Prioritizing the good ideas,” he said. “There are a lot of good ideas, but there are more good ideas than there are dollars to spend and we have to prioritize that and make sure we have a balanced budget.”

‘Open’ to food sales tax cut 

During her speech Tuesday, Noem highlighted her call to get lawmakers to repeal the state’s food sales tax. 

“What should we do with our surplus? My answer is simple: Cut taxes and provide relief to South Dakotans,” Noem said. “Now is the time – let’s get it done.”

Venhuizen said he’s open to cutting the food sales tax, but noted there’s a broad number of tax relief discussions ongoing. Venhuizen and all the lawmakers on the appropriations committee heard economic outlooks from Bureau of Finance and Management commissioner Jim Terwilliger and state economist Derek Johnson.

“Our House caucus will be talking about that in the next couple of weeks to get an idea for where our members stand,” Venhuizen said. “We’ll be looking at her proposal and looking at our own fiscal staff’s analysis and making sure to understand what impact that would have.” 

He said there’s a lot of work to be done to get lawmaker consensus on what kind of tax relief South Dakotans could expect.