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Goodbye, Teacher Raises: Special Session May Scale Budget Down for Pandemic

Remember a couple weeks ago when we were fretting about whether teachers would get their statutorily required 2% raises in the coming fiscal year? Kiss that goodbye—Joint Approps members are telling SD News Watch that, thanks to coronavirus, we’ll likely see a special session to revise the FY2021 budget way way down:

The increasingly dire economic news has led legislators to anticipate that drastic changes may be needed to the state budget lawmakers just passed for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Adjustments to the budget could include revision or elimination of the 2% pay increase for teachers, state employees and Medicaid providers originally included in the spending plan.

…Democratic state Sen. Reynold Nesiba of Sioux Falls said he thinks Gov. Kristi Noem may ask the Legislature to totally or at least partially re-write its 2021 budget bill. Doing so, he said, would require both the Bureau of Finance and Management and the Legislative Research Council to create new revenue projections based on sales tax collection data from March and April. That data, though, won’t be available until sometime in May or even June.

“I don’t think we can reopen a general budget discussion on veto day [March 30] and pass that,” said Nesiba, who also sits on the Joint Appropriations Committee. “I just don’t think we have enough information” [Nick Lowrey, “SD May Need Special Session for Budget,” South Dakota News Watch, 2020.03.25].

I’ll gently remind legislators that wages for teachers are pretty good local stimulus dollars… but then I’ll acknowledge that if the money isn’t there, it isn’t there. As long as we don’t allow deficit spending for state-level economic stimulus or relief, we’re stuck with revenues and state spending that will drop by double-digit percentages.

Again, this is part of the price we pay to save two million lives and save our hospitals from catastrophic overload.

Buildings also provide some stimulus by keeping construction crews on the job, but our universities may see their building plans halted on Veto Day:

Rep. Chris Karr, R-Sioux Falls, co-chair of the joint committee, was more definitive. He said some one-time spending, such as for new university buildings that were added to the existing year’s budget, likely will be cut by March 30 [Lowrey, 2020.03.25].

In other economic news, South Dakota saw unemployment claims jump ninefold last week, from 190 to 1,703. Nationally, unemployment claims jumped 11.6 times over the previous week, from 282,000 to 3,283,000.


  1. Sam@ 2020-03-26

    State employees and Teachers need to be thankful they have jobs. If this happens I support the elimination of the pay raises.

    We have record amounts of people wit no jobs. Government workers have job security and that has value. Along with taxpayer funded retirements.

    We are in this together and they need to sacrifice also.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-03-26

    Sam, the point is reasonable, but it’s not perfect budgeting. Teachers are also providing a vital public service that we can’t do without. And teachers have no vast government job security. They can be fired pretty easily by their school boards, even the veteran teachers.

    Should we turn to public health workers and emergency responders and tell them that, on top of risking their lives to keep the public safe, we’re going to cut their pay and that they should just be thankful they have jobs

  3. mike from iowa 2020-03-26

    South Dakota’s lege has a seriously bad track record of guessing wrong on the budget proposaLs. Incompetence of that magnitude means lege should be fired and replaced.

    If the lege goes to teleconferencing will they still get per diem?

  4. Scott 2020-03-26

    I was actually surprised that any type of raise in anything was approved. Apparently no one was paying attention to what was happening. State Rep Gosch was sick and tested for Covid19 during the final days of session. Just like Trump, denying Covid-19 existed and would become an issue.

  5. Debbo 2020-03-26

    I’m sure reductions like these will be on order everywhere. At the least, I would expect no increases over last year.

  6. o 2020-03-26

    So can state employees, health care workers, and teachers get part of that 2.2 trillion federal bail out — or is that only for the private (capitalist) entities? Isn’t the state of SD an entity worthy of federal assistance to continue its vitality as much has Boeing or WalMart? The states have to deal with the economy of the coronavirus, but “capitalism” does not?

    I do take issue with Sam’s implication in his of the “taxpayer funded retirement.” In the whole picture, of course, all wages and benefits are “taxpayer funded,” but those dollars are not some magical separate pool; that benefit is funded by the salary pool. Tax funded employers also provide some level of health insurance benefit, but that isn’t government funded health care. That not all employers any longer provide pension benefits is not something to curse those workers who are covered, but that ire ought to be pointed at the employers who do not.

    This does pull me to a much larger, fundamental discussion of who does capitalism serve? This pandemic has again focused on the foolishness of our national shift from stakeholder capitalism to shareholder capitalism. Job security, wages, benefits being constantly diminished for stock returns has undermined a fundamental goodness of America.

  7. John 2020-03-26

    If teacher raises are sacrificed, then raises for all executive, judicial, and legislative workers must receive the same sacrifice.

    Bottom line, don’t go there.

  8. Moses6 2020-03-26

    Please don’t give teachers a pay increase I need to for my kids to make bucks on the east coast as they pay alot better than meager S.D.

  9. grudznick 2020-03-26

    Mr. Moses, we sure hope they get out soon and take their dirty socks with them to the east coast. You might visit them, and stay.

  10. Jake Kammerer 2020-03-27

    So, now for the millions in “rainy day” funds???!!!

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-03-28

    When federal revenues are down, do we say we need to cut soldier pay and tell the infantry to be glad they have good government jobs and promises of VA care until they die?

  12. Gary Dickson 2020-03-28

    If, per chance, you read the South Dakota News Watch story on the likely special session, you may have noticed a quote at the end of the story from Rep. Chris Karr. In the statement the Sioux Falls Republican lays out his preference for dollars over South Dakotans’ health (lives). Here is the insensitive legislator’s misguided thinking:
    “We have to get the economy going again because government just can’t afford that tab if the economy stays shut down,” Karr said. “Frankly, people need to be able to pay their bills and feed their families. THE ECONOMIC IMPACT AT SOME POINT, AND MAYBE WE’RE GETTING CLOSE TO THAT, WILL FAR OUTWEIGH THE HEALTH CONCERNS.”
    I’m sure there are other Republicans with similar mindsets. The citizens of this state don’t deserve this kind of dangerous and distorted thinking from the folks making laws in Pierre.

  13. Moses6 2020-03-30

    Grud evidently dies not know higher wages are in blue states compared to red. But then we know the source

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