It’s official: State government gets more for meals, lodging for employees

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Money

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — State government employees will be compensated more for lunch and supper and more for in-state lodging, a panel of South Dakota lawmakers decided Monday.

The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee voted 5-1 to give final clearance to the higher rates. They’ll take effect July 1.

The new in-state rate for lodging is $75 per night year-round. The rates have been $55 per night from September through May and $70 per night during June, July and August.

The new in-state compensation for lunch goes to $14, up from $11. For supper the new rate is $20, up from $15.

The rate for lodging outside South Dakota stays $175 per night. But lunch outside South Dakota will be $18, up from $14. Supper rises, too, to $28 from $21.

Breakfasts stay the same: $6 in-state and $10 outside South Dakota.

The state Board of Finance held a public hearing April 16 and adopted the changes May 21. No one testified as an opponent Monday.

The last round of increases came in July 2015.

Two people testified in support Monday: Nathan Sanderson, executive director for the South Dakota Retailers Association whose members include many restaurants, and Jasper Diegel, a lobbyist for the South Dakota Hotel and Lodging Association.

Senator Lance Russell, a Hot Springs Republican, said he’s frequently been unable to get state rates for motels while on state business.

“A lot of times in the summer it’s just not possible because of tourism,” Diegel said.

She explained that $55 was too low for many establishments to participate. She acknowledged that even at $75 there could still be difficulty in key markets during the summer months. She said there’s not a guaranteed number of rooms available.

“That 55 to 75, I think you’re going to see a huge jump,” she said.

Russell suggested businesses might want to track the effects, but Diegel said the numbers might better come from state government.

“We wouldn’t be able to get that information,” she said. She added,  “As far as hard data, I wouldn’t have access to that.”

Russell later cast the lone nay.

The increases will cost an estimated $2.1 million, according to the state Bureau of Finance and Management.

South Dakota hotels, motels and other lodging establishments would see about $800,000 more per year, while South Dakota restaurants could get another $1 million a year. Out of state businesses could see more than $300,000.

A budget estimate presented to the Legislature during the 2019 session showed the state general fund would cover about $371,500, while the federal government would pay about $470,500. What are known as “other” funds that come from a wide variety of sources, such as revenue from motor fuel taxes and hunting and fishing licenses, would pay nearly $1.3 million.

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