NOTE TO READERS: This is one of several reports that look at what the candidates for South Dakota governor are emphasizing on their campaign websites ahead of the November 8 general election.
PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — When it comes to state government granting financial aid to people who provide child care, only one of South Dakota’s candidates for governor addresses the issue on her campaign website.
Republican Governor Kristi Noem devotes a page to it, while her challengers, Democrat Jamie Smith and Libertarian Tracey Quint, don’t say on their sites what they will do.
But Noem also doesn’t clarify the $100 million she talks about wasn’t money state government collected from taxpayers. Instead, the $100 million was entirely COVID-19 aid that the federal government sent to South Dakota.
The money eventually became a point of contention between the governor and some lawmakers from her own party.
During the October 5, 2020, special session that focused on the coronavirus pandemic, state lawmakers passed legislation amending state government’s 2021 budget, so that nearly $1.4 billion could be accepted from the federal government and put into what was called the coronavirus stimulus pool.
The legislation’s second section said, “Funds appropriated by this Act which are unspent at the end of fiscal year 2021 may be carried over to fiscal year 2022.”
South Dakota received $100 million for child care grants the next year as part of the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021. Noem announced in December 2021 that the state Department of Social Services would take applications from registered and licensed child-care providers.
Her announcement set off a negative response from some unlicensed child-care providers, who contacted some legislators, wondering why they weren’t included.
During the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee then crafted a measure addressing some $62 million of the $100 million. The committee endorsed it 15-3 on February 7. That was despite a long line of opponents who testified, including Laurie Gill, who heads the state Department of Social Services for the governor.
That day the majority of appropriators, especially from the House, took the position that the money needed to be part of state government’s budget before state government could distribute it in grants to the providers. Their argument was that, without the legislation, the money wouldn’t be in the budget for the governor to distribute in grants to the providers.
State senators took a different position. They voted 35-0 on February 9 for a resolution supporting the governor. The resolution said that she had authority to spend federal funds up to the amount set in that year’s state budget and “urged and instructed (the government) to act in a timely manner for the best interests of our citizens in issuing grants from federal funds.”
That unanimous vote included the nine senators from the Appropriations Committee. The House meanwhile twice deferred action on adding the $62 million to the state budget. Then on February 17, the House voted 58-9 to table the appropriations bill, meaning it died without any debate. Smith, the House Democrats’ leader, was one of the 58.
As for Noem, her campaign website says she is now working on how to distribute the remaining $38 million.