- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 11, 2020

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - As the South Dakota Legislature enters its final day to finalize a budget on Thursday, lawmakers are squabbling over how to spend $13 million in unexpected one-time funds.

Republican lawmakers spent much of Wednesday in closed-door meetings, negotiating competing proposals on how to use the money. It appears that a 2% inflationary increases to fund salaries for teachers, state employees and service providers is a safe bet. Nearly all lawmakers agree that should be prioritized. But several proposals remain on the negotiating table. Here’s a look at the big items up for grabs on Thursday.

HEMP

Gov. Kristi Noem kicked off the legislative session by saying she was ready to compromise with lawmakers on a hemp plan and that she would like to see it passed early in the session. But as the session concludes, the hemp bill is still in doubt.

Noem and Senate Republicans want to see $3.5 million included in the bill to boost law enforcement and lab testing. Noem has argued the money is essential to the state implementing hemp “responsibly.”



House Majority Leader Lee Qualm, the Platte Republican who championed the bill this year, said he is on board with the amount of funding. But it is not clear if his colleagues in the House agree. The House will vote on the bill on Thursday.

SCHOOL OF HEALTH SCIENCES AT UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH DAKOTA

Noem and the Senate wants $5 million to build a School of Health Sciences at the University of South Dakota, but some Republicans in the House are not convinced the university needs the money.

Representatives from the Board of Regents told lawmakers the $5 million will allow them to get another $4.5 million in matching funds from a donor. The money would allow them to build a new building to house programs to teach nursing and other healthcare fields.

Representatives from the university and healthcare groups support the proposal as a way to invest in the healthcare industry in the state.

But some House Republicans opposed it. They are arguing that universities don’t need the money as much as counties that have been hit by flooding in the last year.

Rep. Sam Marty, a Prairie City Republican, said House Republicans were left out of budget discussions with the governor and Senate.

“They want my agg communities to pay for that,” he said.

COUNTY ROADS

House Republicans want to send $10 million to counties to help with road repairs after flooding hit many parts of the state last year.

The proposal contains a funding formula that, among other factors like population and bridges, prioritizes counties with gravel roads. Farmers rely on those roads to transport their crops and livestock, said Rep. Caleb Finck, a Tripp Republican.

WHAT ELSE

The Senate and House are going back and forth on a few other budget items like funding the statewide expansion of a crisis hotline, need-based college scholarships for South Dakota students and funds for college students studying to be South Dakota teachers.

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