Governor Kristi Noem announced her second straight $19-million surplus yesterday: $19.1 million left over this year, $19.4 million left over last year. Both years under Noem, sales taxes have not grown as much as projected, but both years Noem has spent less than the Legislature directed her to invest in public services (although she spent a lot more than the Legislature had in mind for fireworks and private video services).
Governor Noem is socking that money away in reserves instead of remitting it to the taxpayers or investing it in urgent needs. What could we do with $19.1 million?
- Send $446 to each of the 42,821 South Dakotans reported unemployed in May (the most recent figure) to bridge the gap as Congress struggles to renew coronavirus unemployment relief.
- Hire 371 teachers at the state’s target salary of $51,367 to help each district reduce class size and handle the extra work of coordinating online classes:
Student Count (Fall 2019, pre-K–12) Additional Teachers 1–200 1 201–400 2 401–1000 3 1001–2500 4 2501–5000 5 5001+ 6
- Buy 8.56 million reusable transparent masks to distribute to all South Dakotans so we can crush coronavirus by the first day of fall.
- Buy school lunch for all 139,000 kids in the state, pre-kindergarten through grade 12, for the first two months of the school year (using Aberdeen’s just-announced AY2021 rates of $3 for elementary, $3.15 for middle school, and $3.45 for high school lunch).
- Hire 660 contact tracers—average ten for each county—at $4,800 a month for six month.
I invite your suggestions. I’m willing to bet that pretty much anything the blog commentariat comes up with will be better than letting this money sit in the hidden drawer in Kristi’s make-up kit.