Governor Kristi Noem says South Dakota is in good fiscal shape as we head into 2021 even as we continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
The governor outlined her budget proposal for next year in front of state lawmakers in Pierre Tuesday.
She talked about everything from paying off debt, increasing money for education, to increasing funding for the state’s infrastructure.
But she also took time to push back against her critics, who say she isn’t doing enough to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Governor Noem kicked off her budget address this afternoon with a moment of silence to remember the more than 1,000 South Dakotans, who have died from the coronavirus.
In her speech, Noem quickly addressed her response to the pandemic, specifically her decision to not impose a statewide mask mandate or lockdowns.
“The state hasn’t issued lockdowns or mandates. We haven’t shut down businesses or closed churches. In fact, our state has never even defined what an “essential business” is. That, quite simply, is not the government’s role,” Noem said.
When it comes to one-time spending, the governor is proposing to spend $100 million to finish connecting the state to broadband service.
“The benefits of this investment are hard to overstate. It makes it easier for our farmers and ranchers to communicate with their suppliers, access weather forecasts, and participate in online marketing and auctions,” Noem said.
The governor also proposes a 2.4% increase for state aid to education, as well as a 2.4% increase to the per-student allocation for the technical colleges and a 2.4% increase for state employee salaries.
The governor has made headlines with the amount of out-of-state traveling she’s done this year.
Her budget calls for selling two of the state’s older planes and spend $5 million to buy a new airplane.
“The State’s top priority when considering aircraft must be safety. We all know that South Dakota tragically lost a governor, two state commissioners, three chief executives, and two pilots, 27 years ago. They died in service to our great state. While our state lost profound dignitaries in that crash, their families lost so much more. The plane we currently fly is the same plane purchased after that crash,” Noem said.
The governor says the state closed the 2020 budget year in June with a $19 million surplus, and general fund revenues are up by 19.4% compared to the same time last year.
But she also wants to add an extra 2% to the state’s regular 10% budget reserves.
In addition, she wants to put $50 million in a trust fund in order to protect the state against any future economic hardships.