The deal is done!
The 98th Legislative Session is one for the history books. Minus veto day coming up at the end of the month, we’ve finally reached the end of the session. Our House of Representatives operated at a highly efficient level and with camaraderie and unification not witnessed in decades. Our ability to work with the Senate when it mattered most and to concur with many of the governor’s budget proposals also proved fruitful for all of South Dakota. The legislative branch of our government had spirited debates and negotiations that produced a budget all of South Dakota can be proud of. This year we made it a point to cut taxes, take care of our people, improve our workforce, invest in education, protect our communities, and keep integrity in our elections. Here are the highlights from my first year:
- The largest tax cut in state history! We’re delivering over $104M in tax relief this year by reducing the state sales and use tax rate down from 4.5% to 4.2%. This tax cut will apply to practically everything in South Dakota; food, clothing, goods and services.
- Early on during this session, we also cut the State Reemployment Taxes by $18M, helping South Dakota businesses from unnecessary over-taxation.
TAKING CARE OF OUR PEOPLE
- Over and above Governor Noem’s initial recommendation of 5% to the “Big Three” (education, state employees, and Medicaid providers), we listened to you all and stepped up where it matters.
- 7% increases to Teachers and Schools
- 7% increases for State Employees
- 5% increases for Medicaid providers
- We also opted to fund Medicaid provider reimbursements to 100% of rate methodology, increased funding for nursing homes, dentists, and behavioral health organizations, AND worked to fund and implement Medicaid expansion – fulfilling the wishes of the voters.
- I’m also proud of my colleagues for stepping up and providing funding to help tackle youth mental health needs, suicide prevention efforts, and adult day services for those in need.
WORKFORCE AND COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY
- My bill to expand recognition of occupational licenses will help people who are already certified in their craft move to South Dakota and get to work more quickly.
- We also passed the largest workforce bill in state history through Senate Bill 41, a $200M infrastructure fund to promote affordable housing solutions all across the state.
- In addition to expanding High School CTE offerings, we also increased the amounts on the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship.
- We’re keeping tuition low and affordable at our Tech Schools and Regental Universities by passing a tuition freeze and agreed with the Governor’s plan to provide 100% tuition reimbursement for members of the South Dakota National Guard.
PROTECTING OUR PEOPLE
- All across our state, we have volunteer members of our community who risk their life to keep us safe from fires. This year we funded new equipment to keep these volunteers protected and to improve the condition of their rural and volunteer departments.
- We added raises for law enforcement and public safety employees, funded necessary improvements to our prison system, and passed bills to create meaningful reform to our judicial system in attempts to rehabilitate those we can while more transparently punishing those who wish to cause harm.
- I’ve mentioned it numerous times this session, but I believe South Dakota has some of the strongest and safest laws on the books when it comes to our elections. We’re keeping our elections free and fair by making it easy to vote and almost impossible to cheat.
- Through my legislation (HB1124), we added rigorous testing and security requirements to ballot counting machines. We also cleaned up absentee voting and established post-election audits to continue our tradition of consistently improving voter confidence.
Other states should take note of how we do things in South Dakota. As a new member of the legislature, I couldn’t have asked for a better year. All five of my bills passed both chambers and were sent to the governor. We worked hard to make strategic one-time investments and to enact sound policies for South Dakota. My colleagues in the State Capitol worked together for the betterment of you all and at the end of the day produced a balanced budget that checks all the boxes. It wasn’t always pretty, but it’s amazing what your state legislature can accomplish in under 40 legislative days. It’s been an honor to serve you all in Pierre these last two months, and I look forward to continued service during the interim session and again next year!
-Rep. Tyler Tordsen