Legislative Week One

By Rep. Mathew Wollmann

Week one of the 91st legislative session is in the books. We as legislators, those in attendance, and those watching online and on TV, had the privilege of hearing the Governor’s State of the State Address, the state of the judiciary address, and the state of the Tribes address. All of which were very informing. It became quite clear from the start that the Governor’s top priorities included education funding, Medicaid expansion, the expansion of our state parks and workforce development.
Governor Daugaard’s education funding proposal includes a half cent sales tax increase which would generate over $107 million in annual revenue. Of these dollars, 62 million would be used to raise teacher salaries to a state average of $48,500, five million would be used for teacher mentoring programs and distance learning, and roughly 40 million would assist in property tax relief efforts. It is hard to judge after only one week in Pierre how legislators feel about this proposal. Democrat legislators have proposed a different plan calling for a one cent sales tax increase which would raise the average teacher pay to $50,000. Just like the road funding bill last session, I do not wake up every morning looking to raise taxes, but I do wake up every morning wanting to know that we have excellent roads and an excellent education system.
Medicaid currently covers about 118,000 South Dakotans, and if the expansion occurs it would add at least 55,000 more individuals. This expansion will only occur if we, the legislature, approve of it, and of course, if it does not require the use of state funds. So far 30 other states have taken the expansion option under the Affordable Care Act. This discussion of expansion is mainly due to the complete debacle we call the IHS “Indian Health Service”. If the United States Government were already upholding their agreement by providing proper healthcare to Native Americans, we would most likely not be having this discussion today.
Lastly, I would like to say thank you to those Korean War Veterans we honored across the State of South Dakota last week. Your dedication to service, the United States, and this great state will never be forgotten. You are the men and women that my generation looks up to and models our lives after. God Bless and thank you for your service. Please email me any concerns at Mathew.Wollmann@gmail.com or Rep.Wollmann@state.sd.us and follow updates on my Facebook page or @MathewWollmann on Twitter.

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