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  • Samantha Johnson, NewsCenter1

What do two local legislators expect/hope to hear at the Governor's Budget Address on December 5th?

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RAPID CITY, S.D. - In Pierre on Tuesday, December 5, Governor Kristi Noem will be presenting her Governor's Budget Report for Fiscal Year 2025. This address commemorates the 135th year of a balanced budget for the state of South Dakota.

Two local legislators, State Representative Mike Derby (R-District 34) and Senator Helene Duhamel (R-District 32), spoke about what they expect to hear and what they hope.

Rep. Mike Derby

What does he expect?

Rep. Derby explained that he is expecting to hear from the Governor about her budget plan for the new men's prison. He said, "I'm sure the prison will be a big topic as far as we have a prison infrastructure fund, how much we're going to put into that, and also the location now that this site's been identified for Lincoln County, I'm sure there'll be some discussion on that". Along with the prison, he believes she'll talk about what he labels as the "big three": state employees, the public school system, and Medicaid providers such as hospitals.

"Last fiscal year, we provided a 7% increase for state employees and K-12. [Along with] 5% for Medicaid providers. My prediction is that she'll probably go to 3% this year. Inflation has gone down, and if we can get to 3%, I hope everyone's happy with that because I think that will be actually probably a little tough to get to" he said.

What is he hoping will be brought up?

Rep. Derby says that he will be closely listening for a couple of items to be brought up. He raised the question: "Will she be proposing a tuition freeze again? This would be the fourth year in a row for a university system, that seems to have worked well [in past years]." Other topics he will be looking out for are Rapid City Regional Airport and its infrastructural needs, Douglas High School expansion, and the timber industry crisis. "We have an issue where the amount of timber being harvested is not enough to be sustainable for the mills. And I believe that a healthy forest is a managed forest" said Rep. Derby.

Western South Dakota has seen significant growth over the last few years. With that growth, comes the need for infrastructure needs, this is the case with the RC Regional Airport and Douglas High School. Seeing an expansion or some budget delegated to these infrastructure needs is what he is hoping to see in the budget address. 

Rep. Derby ended the interview by saying, "Keep in mind, with the budget, Governor Daugaard used to say that it's 'The governor's budget is a plan. It's not the plan.' And what that means is we as legislators will take all of our ideas and thoughts, and we’ll get new revenue numbers by the time we're about 2/3 of the way through session. And we're going to tweak it and put together a balanced budget for the 135th year in a row."

Sen. Helene Duhamel

What does she expect?

Similar to Rep. Derby, Sen. Duhamel says she has an indication that almost all the money left over from last year will be funded into the prison system. However, Sen. Duhamel says that she believes, not only will some funds go to the new men's prison, but will also be allocated to rebuilding the men's and women's facilities [across the state], and expanding on them.

What is she hoping for?

Sen. Duhamel is hopeful that Governor Noem will consider supporting the Missouri River Pipeline to Western South Dakota. "We need another $3.5 million just to finish the study to get this project launched. So I'm hopeful that [it] will be in the budget" said Sen. Duhamel. However, in the case it does not get brought up, she says that she'll bring a bill up to the government. 

She continues by saying, "We have current water needs. We're in trouble when we have a drought, not future troubles, we're in trouble now.  So we really need to make an investment in water and there's no more important investment. That's what government does. It does the things nobody can, the big infrastructure projects.  Water pays dividends for every citizen of South Dakota, and right now we have an opportunity to really fund this project and get it off the ground." She states that last year, she and others tried to push the water project, but ended up losing by two votes. This year she is hopeful that they will receive more support for the project.

Besides the Missouri project, Sen. Duhamel also said there is critical importance in addressing transportation needs, including the expansion of the Rapid City Regional Airport, in the western region of the state. This is deemed crucial, not only for the ranching industry but also for boosting tourism in the area.

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