The Senate tapped the brakes yesterday on the House’s effort to abandon the 2016 teacher pay plan and raid the half-penny sales tax to balance the budget.
Senator Larry Tidemann (R-7/Brookings) moved to not concur with the House version of Senate Bill 35, which sets zero increase for K-12 funding and eliminates the Schoenbeck Amendment that dedicates 63% of last year’s half-cent sales tax hike to teacher pay. In brief remarks, Senator Tidemann said SB 35 “needs further discussion.” Presiding in the absence of Lt. Gov. Michels, Senate Pro-Tem Brock Greenfield noted from the podium that House members had said they were willing to have that discussion and that the bill setting general state aid for education almost always ends up in conference committee. The motion to not adopt passed without audible dissent.
Senator Tidemann has the pleasure of serving on the conference committee with five fellow Appropriations Committee members: Senator Deb Peters (R-9/Hartford), Senator Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke), Rep. Dan Ahlers (D-25/Dell Rapids), Rep. David Anderson (R-16/Hudson), and Rep. Hugh Bartels (R-5/Watertown). Ahlers spoke strongly against the sales tax raid in the House Tuesday; Anderson and Bartels voted for it. Peters, Sutton, and Tidemann all voted for the sales tax/teacher pay plan last year.
As one metric of how much protecting the teacher pay plan matters to South Dakotans, my initial Tuesday evening Facebook post on the sales tax raid has “reached” 10,931 people and been shared 100 times. If a similar volume of calls and e-mails reach Peters, Sutton, Tidemann, Ahlers, Anderson, Bartels this morning, we may be able to get SB 35 back to the deal we made last year to make a long-term commitment to raising our teacher pay to regionally competitive levels.