The South Dakota Legislature approved a $5.1 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. Conservative budgeting will likely provide plenty of leftover funds a year from now.
The state received billions in federal assistance due to COVID-19. Some of it was spent last year, while part of it rolled over to this year.
South Dakota fared very well in that assistance. First, the money was mostly doled out to states according to population, but small states received more than a per capita share because of a "floor" or minimum level of assistance. Second, South Dakota's economy didn't suffer as much as many other states, so the state budget didn't need much propping up.
The assistance funds were used for many good purposes, including health care, education, business assistance and so on. More will be spent on those items in the coming year.
Even so, the legislature was able to appropriate large amounts of money to one-time or special projects. There is $100 million to expand broadband internet access in the state, $12 million to build an events center at the fairgrounds in Huron, and $20 million to repair a railroad line from Fort Pierre to Rapid City. Some money was also put in reserves for use by a future legislature and governor.
Lastly, the revenue forecast for the next fiscal year appears very conservative. State Sen. Reynold Nesiba said the revenue projects was more than $50 million lower than the legislature economic analysts recommended.
All these point to excess funds being available next spring. In some cases, the governor has authority to spend the money before the fiscal year ends, while some may be rolled over to a future year.
Let's keep an eye on those excess taxpayer funds toward the end of each fiscal year and see if they are used in accordance with what citizens and our elected officials want.
-- Jon M. Hunter