Governor recommends $4 million to offset money that was swept from S.D. airport fund

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Earlier this month Governor Kristi Noem did something no other South Dakota governor in memory had.

She recommended in her December 8 budget speech that the Legislature transfer $4 million to the state aeronautics fund.

The proposal would more than restore $3.5 million that was swept from the fund a decade ago, long before Noem took office as governor.

It’s something that Senator Brock Greenfield and others had tried to do for years but couldn’t get past opposition from the budget office of the previous governor, Dennis Daugaard.

Greenfield had repeatedly attempted to get $3.5 million returned to the fund. The Legislature gave $500,000 but the Clark Republican still couldn’t get the remaining $3 million.

“Simply put, we took money that wasn’t ours…and we used it to balance our budget,” Greenfield told appropriators at a 2016 hearing. He finally gave up introducing legislation.

The state Aeronautics Commission talked Thursday about Noem’s willingness. Said state Transportation Secretary Joel Jundt, “I think that’s wonderful for all of us.”

Jundt noted that the Legislature would have the final word and the list of lawmakers’ competing wants would be long.

“I have not heard of anybody who will be against this,” he said.  

The 2021 legislative session opens January 12. The House and Senate appropriators typically wrap up budget work in late February or early March. Commissioner Bob Huggins of Sioux Falls said, “If we need to, we’ll drive to Pierre.”

The commission also reviewed the draft of its annual report.

Representative David Johnson, who’s been helping rewrite the state’s aeronautics laws, told the commission he has taken up the cause in recent years to restore the $3 million.

The Rapid City Republican soon will be in a better spot to make his argument. He won election to the Senate in November and has been assigned to the Joint Committee on Appropriations.

Johnson’s advice to the commission was that anyone interested in helping their local airports should contact their local legislators and urge support for the governor’s recommendation.

“We had a little quiet celebration amongst ourselves once we saw it was in the governor’s budget,” Johnson said. He said the effort year after year was the reason for her decision.

Johnson said he hasn’t heard anybody on appropriations opposed to it but doesn’t expect they would tell him.

“You can be sure that if there is any opposition I’ll let the commission know about it and I’ll be sure to be in the front line about protecting and defending that $4 million,” he said. “For now, I don’t see any resistance, but that can change once we get into the heat of appropriating the money for the budget for this year.” 

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