South Dakota is seeing boost from more federal aid, as Noem prepares to proclaim, ‘We’re No. 1’

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Look for Governor Kristi Noem to say Tuesday that South Dakota has the strongest economy in the nation right now.

And look for her to recommend in her annual budget speech to the Legislature at 1 p.m. that state lawmakers set aside hundreds of millions of dollars for water projects throughout South Dakota.

You also might hear her talk about changing how state agencies use their physical space in Pierre.

Thanks to Congress, all 50 states have received billions of dollars to keep their economies running during the COVID-19 pandemic. South Dakota has seen hundreds of millions in coronavirus-related relief from the federal government. That borrowing against the federal government’s credit is showing up as stronger revenue for state government.

State government closed the 2021 budget year on June 30 with a whopping $86 million surplus. That was four times more than for 2020.

According to the state Bureau of Finance and Management, ongoing receipts from the state sales and use tax for July through October were already $73.1 million above the estimate that lawmakers adopted last winter.

Lawmakers last March approved a 2022 budget that included more than $1.8 billion to be spent from state government’s general fund.

All of this comes as Noem prepares to run for a second term as governor next June.

Noem, a vocal supporter of former U.S. President Donald Trump and a frequent critic of U.S. President Joe Biden, faces a likely challenge for the Republican nomination in the primary election next June from state Representative Steven Haugaard.

The winner might see an independent candidacy from former state lawmaker Laura Hubbel in the November general election. At this point, no one’s announced a run as a Democrat.

Hubbel challenged Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard in the 2014 Republican primary. Daugaard won 60,017 to 14,196.

Noem’s administration recently outlined many of its priorities for the latest round of COVID-related funding to the Legislature’s COVID-19 Liaison Committee.

State Agriculture and Natural Resources Secretary Hunter Roberts said his department received five times as many requests for new water projects as the $600 million that the governor is expected to recommend be set aside.

Commissioner Scott Bollinger has been working on an inventory of space at the direction of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. He told lawmakers by letter Monday they should wait to see what the governor might recommend in her speech Tuesday.

The 2022 legislative session opens January 11.

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