To beat the impending blizzard, the Legislature convened just after midnight, passed a 4.9-billion-dollar budget that most of them had not read, and adjourned at 3 a.m.
Budgets at 3 a.m.—yeah, that makes for thoughtful lawmaking.
Seventeen legislators—16% of the body—missed the biggest vote of the Session: Representatives Bordeaux, Deutsch, Frye-Mueller, Howard, Johns, Livermont, Marty, Milstead, Olson, Pourier, and Saba and Senators Curd, DiSanto, Foster, Jensen (Phil), Schoenbeck, and Wismer.
Senator Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) protested, as usual, that the budget was being passed with insufficient scrutiny. The Senate, as usual, ignored Senator Nelson’s protest; only Nelson’s pal Senator Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs) voted against the budget with Nelson.
Nursing homes emerged as the clear winners of budget negotiations. After weeks of discussion among legislators about the state’s nursing home crisis, legislators granted nursing homes the most substantial funding boost percentage-wise.
State Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing home providers will increase by 10 percent under the approved Fiscal 2020 budget.
Additionally, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 180, amending appropriations for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2019. Thus, nursing homes will start seeing increased reimbursement rates as soon as April.
…The boost doesn’t close the gap completely. Nursing homes still won’t be reimbursed 100 percent for their Medicaid patients, but they will be closer to full reimbursement.
“Is (the increase) going to solve the problem entirely?” Joint Committee on Appropriations Co-Chair Sen. John Wiik, R-Big Stone City, said on the floor Wednesday. “No, but it’s a good start” [Sarah Mearhoff, “Nursing Homes Emerge as Winners in 2020 Budget Passed by SD Legislature,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2019.03.13].
Once again, in South Dakota, “winning” means going from doing nothing to doing something. “Winning” means getting an incomplete solution.
Governor Noem had proposed only a 5% increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rate to nursing homes. The Legislature found the cash to double that increase and still submit a total budget burning up $2.80 million less in general funds than Noem recommended in January. The total budget passed these wee hours spends $3.66 million less than Noem recommended. It also provides for one half of an employee more than Noem asked for. The 14,013.2 FTEs in the FY2020 budget represent a 91.3-person, 0.66% increase in the state staff budgeted for in FY2019.