PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota legislators capped the main run of the 2021 session with unusually good feelings all around Thursday afternoon as they passed state government’s budget plan for the coming year.

The Senate voted 34-0 for the $5.1 billion package that starts July 1 and calls for spending $1.8 billion in state general funds, $1.8 billion of federal spending authority and $1.4 billion from other funds such as motor fuel taxes and Game, Fish and Parks licenses.

It turns on an economy that was strengthened by the billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 aid that flowed into South Dakota through loans and grants to businesses and organizations, higher unemployment payments and $1.25 billion to state government, including millions of dollars in ongoing state and local government costs that are temporarily shifted to the federal government.

Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden declared the new budget passed through the Senate at 3:21 p.m.

“Congratulations, senators. Well done,” he said after one more round of applause.

The 2022 package contains 2.4% pay increases for teachers, Medicaid services providers and state government employees and moves institutions that deliver Medicaid to 100% reimbursement.

Watching from the Senate gallery were the governor’s chief of staff, Tony Venhuizen; finance commissioner Liza Clark; revenue secretary Jim Terwilliger and many others from their staffs. They then crossed the Capitol to the House gallery to see it one more time.

Representatives gave their final approval of 61-8 at 4:18 p.m. The opposition came from a more-conservative set of Republicans.

“This is going to be the best year yet,” Linda Duba said. “It’s not a bill, it’s an outstanding budget that will move South Dakota forward.”

Democrat leader Jamie Smith praised his Republican counterpart Kent Peterson and Speaker Spencer Gosch. Peterson called Smith his friend. “We don’t play games,” Peterson said. “We do it the right way.”

“We proved we are not the rest of the country,” Gosch said about the challenge of holding session in a pandemic. “We found our way to yes and got away from no.”

In the Senate, Jack Kolbeck said appropriations co-chair Jean Hunhoff was “the stone”: “And believe me, she was the one who led us. Jean, I cannot thank you enough.”

Reynold Nesiba urged support for the budget, although he suggested some things could have been done better: “I think we’re going to find ourselves with tens of millions of one time money when we come back a year from now.” 

Republican leader Gary Cammack praised Senate appropriators for working “endless sessions” that often started before the sun came up and ended after the sun had gone down. He called for another round of applause. “I don’t think we can thank them enough.”