10 Mar SD Budget Chief Questions Some Proposed Cuts

March 10, 2010

Source: Associated Press Writer

Gov. Mike Rounds budget director said Tuesday he is still seeking more details about the spending cuts proposed last week by Republican legislative leaders.

The proposed cuts could reduce a childhood vaccination program, courses offered by television to rural schools and the state’s economic development efforts, state budget director Jason Dilges said.

"We’ve got more questions than answers at this point," said Dilges. "I’ve asked them to show me their math."

After the GOP lawmakers unveiled their proposals, Rounds said many of their ideas would not work. The Republican governor also said he stands behind his proposed spending plan, which would use $32 million in reserve funds to balance the state budget in the year beginning July 1.

However, members of the Republican legislative minority hope to balance next year’s budget without using reserve funds because they are worried about even bigger budget problems loomin g in the following years.

One of the biggest parts of the GOP plan would narrow the gap between revenue and spending by $11.5 million by reducing the size of tax refunds given to large industrial and agricultural processing projects. The budget cannot be finished until lawmakers decide the details of the tax refund measure.

House Republican Leader Bob Faehn of Watertown said GOP lawmakers are sticking to their budget-cutting plan. Senate Republican Leader Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls said legislators will sit down with the governor’s budget staff to work out details.

Dilges said he has asked Republican legislative leaders to give him details of how they want some state agencies to respond to the suggested spending cuts. He said some of the proposals could have unintended consequences and others are flawed because they could cut the same dollars two or three times.

For example, the plan to close the intensive treatment program for women inmates addicted to methamphetamine would affect nearly 100 inmates and those in aftercare, Dilges said. It’s unclear whether those inmates would be turned free or put into the main women’s prison, he said.

A $300,000 cut would remove about half the funding for a program that provides courses over a television network to rural schools, Dilges said. But he said lawmakers need to provide more information on what courses or services they want to eliminate.

The GOP proposal would cut $7 million by a 2 percent across-the-board cut to all programs except K-12 education and Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides medical services to low-income people.

Dilges said a $4 million cut in personal services and another $4 million cut in travel, equi pment and supplies would also amount to across-the-board cuts. The general across-the-board cuts, combined with the cuts in personal services and equipment, would add up to cuts of 6 percent or more to agencies, he said.

"There’s not $15 million of fat that’s floating around in state government that we can do without and not have to discontinue services," Dilges said.

The cuts also could have unintended consequences such as preventing South Dakota Public Broadcasting from getting some federal matching money and reducing a Health Department program that vaccinates children for mumps, measles and other diseases, Dilges said.

A $1 million cut in the Department of Tourism and State Development is likely to hamper economic development efforts because tourism promotion does not use any general state funds, he said.

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