PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A panel of state lawmakers learned the reason Wednesday why South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem doesn’t plan to call a special legislative session before the current budget year closes June 30, despite tax revenue running behind because of COVID-19’s impact on the economy.
Liza Clark, the governor’s commissioner of finance and management, said she and her staff have been in a months-long push to keep up with changes that the U.S. Treasury Department has been making, as states seek clarity on how they can use federal aid that Congress intended to push back against the global pandemic.
“The rules keep changing the game. But they’re for our benefit. They keep getting better,” Clark told the Joint Committee on Appropriations. She said the numbers her office plans to give to legislators must be right, and the information isn’t complete. “We’re working as fast as we can,”
Clark said her office already is using outside lawyers Paul Bachand and Aaron Scheibe, as well as Monte Kramer, who recently retired as vice president of finance from the state’s universities system. She’s looking at contracting with an accounting firm to help track where the millions of dollars flow.
Her presentation lasted about two hours via video conference because of COVID-19 precautions. Some of the committee’s 18 members participated at the state Capitol but most took part via technology from their communities.
State government has $1.25 billion of federal aid as South Dakota’s share of the coronavirus relief fund that was part of the broader CARES Act that Congress passed. Data on state sales and use taxes that businesses collected in April will become publicly available the first week of June.
Clark said state departments have been cautious in filling vacancies, since the governor directed in March that all non-essential employees should work from home.
State departments are now gradually bringing people back. Noem on Tuesday announced she had extended the state declaration of a public health emergency through December 30, so South Dakota can remain eligible for federal COVID-19 assistance.
Clark said state government can carry over to next budget year $28 million of additional federal Medicaid assistance related to COVID-19. So far, demand for Medicaid services hasn’t substantially increased in recent months.
If there isn’t a June special session, Clark said, the 2% increases will take effect July 1 in state aid to K-12 schools, providers of Medicaid services and state government employees.
All of the information about South Dakota state government’s financial response to COVID-19 will be on the Bureau of Finance and Management website later Wednesday, according to Clark.