Senate Bill 141, the unnecessarily beleaguered update of our child support laws, finally passed Senate Judiciary yesterday. Prime sponsor and Child Support Commission member Senator Arthur Rusch (R-17/Yankton) brought an amendment that decreased the increases in child support obligations for a fair swath of income brackets.
The amended formula keeps the significant breaks for parents making less than $1,050 in joint net monthly income. The amended formula keeps the new increasing scale of obligations for parents netting between $20,000 and $30,000 monthly. The amendment keeps the important change to the definition of primary full-time income that removes some confusion and subjectivity and makes clear that teaching is a full-time job.
The big change comes in the new formula’s smoothing out of a couple of bubbles in three monthly income ranges: $3,351 to $3,800, $4,151 to $7,100, and $7,451 to $12,500. As you can see in the charts below, everybody in those ranges will still have higher child support obligations upon passage of SB 141 (the green amendment line is above the blue status quo line), but not as high as prior to the amendment (the green line is below the red original SB 141 line).
Basically, the Rusch amendment grinds down those increase bubbles to 4%.
Recall that since we last updated the child support formula in July 2009, the Consumer Price Index has risen 10.73%. Neither the original formula in SB 141 nor yesterday’s amendment imposed that big of an increase on any parent pairs making less than $22,151 per month ($265,812 per year). For parents of two children, the original formula imposed an average increase of 3.13% on parents making $20K or less per month and 22.90% on parents making more. Yesterday’s amendment still soaks that upper bracket, but the average increase on parents supporting two kids on $20K or less per month (the vast majority of parents) is now 2.17%.
Under the original SB 141 formula, 13.44% of parents netting $20K per month or less saw their child support obligations increase 7% or more. Now the only parents in that income range who see increases greater than 4% are parents supporting six kids on $15,401 to $15,450 a month… and their anomalous 10.9% increase arises from a typo in the current statutory formula (LRC typed “3,360” instead of “3,630”).
Senator Rusch included an automatic cost-of-living adjustment to the obligation formula in his amendment has compensation for the fact that the immediate increases created by SB 141 are lower than inflation over the eight years since our last adjustment. Senator Kris Langer (R-25/Dell Rapids) expressed concern that wages might not keep up with the cost of living and moved to strike that automatic annual increase. That amendment passed (4–2: Langer, Netherton, Kennedy, and Russell aye; Greenfield and Rusch nay).
Senate Judiciary then passed SB 141 as amended (5–1, only Netherton nay; Nelson excused). The child support update thus heads to the full Senate with two days to spare before the crossover deadline Thursday.