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HB 1255 + HJR 5005: Don’t Spend Any More Coronavirus Relief! Stick It in the Bank!

Governor Kristi Noem has done a remarkable job of not spending federal coronavirus relief dollars on coronavirus relief. Now Representative Chris Karr, who came down with coronavirus himself last weekend, wants to make sure we never spend $200 million of that coronavirus relief money.

Karr’s House Bill 1255 would create the “South Dakota Forever Trust Fund,” a new fund into which the state would sink $200 million, which is one of the estimates of cash left over from the $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding the federal government sent us to fight the pandemic and the concomitant recession. In a surprise special address to the Legislature yesterday, Governor Noem said we may have $125 million more in leftover cash on top of the fake $250-million surplus she has fabricated from not spending CARES Act dollars as intended. Since we chose to promote tourism and throw old folks into the economic furnace instead of supporting people who are trying to stop the spread of coronavirus, and since we have no plan for deploying the remaining funds to, oh, I don’t know, hire more online teachers and educational technologists, construct a statewide vaccine tracking database, or train and hire hundreds of people to make house calls with vaccines, Rep. Karr evidently figures we should codify Noem’s clever plan to simply sock away our CARES Act money in the bank and live off the interest.

And that interest is all we’d ever see of that hijacked coronavirus money. HB 1255 would require a three-fourths vote of both chambers of the Legislature to spend any of the principal in the new Forever Trust Fund. HB 1255 would add more principal to the Forever Trust Fund by shifting half of each fiscal year’s unobligated cash balances to that new lockbox.

South Dakota, like the rest of the nation and the world, faces a real public health emergency. But rather than proposing emergency measures to spend the huge sums we have left to protect South Dakotans from sickness and the immediate economic harms of the pandemic, Rep. Karr thinks the real emergency is the need to not spend that money and instead stuff it in the state’s mattress. Yes, HB 1255 includes an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect immediately and not be subject to a vote of the people.

Interestingly, Representative Karr thinks we may need a vote of the people to enshrine his Forever Mistrust Fund in the state constitution. House Joint Resolution 5005 would place on the 2022 general election ballot an amendment creating the Forever Trust Fund, securing the principal except for appropriations by a three-fourths vote of each chamber of the Legislature, and directing the South Dakota Investment Council to make that money grow. Of course, HJR 5005 is illegal: it encompasses more than one subject. It creates a trust fund (one subject), it orders investments (two subjects), it appropriates money to the general fund (three), and it establishes voting thresholds for appropriations measures in the Legislature (four). Rep. Karr filed this bill last week Thursday and has since fallen ill, so he may have Judge Christine Klinger’s ruling Monday that Amendment A violated our single-subject rule, so perhaps we can generously allow Rep. Karr to divide his motion into four separate proposed amendments.


  1. MD 2021-02-10 07:12

    The reason the federal government released those funds were to stimulate the economy and should be used for such.
    If they use it to squirrel away in a sovereign wealth fund, it will likely be placed into investments that do not directly help South Dakotans out of a fiduciary responsibility of the fund manager. The interest won’t make much difference in the state’s budget either.
    Spend the money. 200 million could do a lot to stimulate the economy – public building projects, roads, Medicaid expansion, aid to communities, seed capital to start a state bank, etc.

    Sovereign wealth funds are great, but the experience of North Dakota has been that these become an unfortunate political football and end up doing little to benefit the state. That said, the state bank does have a huge role in stimulating the economy of ND, playing a role in a ton of economic development, government support, etc

  2. o 2021-02-10 10:30

    I saw this reported today: “Nearly 60% of the people facing charges related to the Capitol riot showed signs of prior money troubles, including bankruptcies, notices of eviction or foreclosure, bad debts, or unpaid taxes. . . ”

    With this action in Pierre and the dragging of the feet in DC by the GOP for a smaller relief package, it almost becomes a transparent political strategy to keep people down, then stay in power by making them angry about their situation.

    For the centrists of the SD GOP, and the Democratic Party nationally, they need to use government to deliver on helping Americans (inclusive of all the people who live here) do better. Only by seeing REAL life-changing betterment delivered, DELIVERED, will the demagogue, racist, nativist, totalitarians get pushed aside at the ballot box.

    People will not complain about deficits and budgets when they are well-fed, well-paid, and well-cared for with health care. At that time, they will also notice that those bringing up deficits are those who have been VERY well-fed, VERY well-paid, and VERY well-taken care of to this point — on the backs of those who had not.

    Why not a $200,000,000 SD New Deal?

  3. John C 2021-02-10 11:15

    Why not use some of the funds for vaccine distribution/administration?

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-02-10 11:50

    Come on, it’s just the pubs way to circumvent government to show how government doesn’t work.

  5. Mike J 2021-02-10 12:01

    If the state doesn’t use that money the way it is intended, they should give it back to the federal government. Besides, don’t those republicans hate deficits. And all that money has created more deficits.

    I work for a hospital and we are concerned that we may have to give back some of the money we received to fight COVID because we may or may not have used the money exactly like the government wanted us to. You would think as a hospital we wouldn’t have to worry about giving money back, but we may. So, why shouldn’t the state give back the money if they didn’t use it the way it was expected.

  6. Eve Fisher 2021-02-10 12:53

    It’s bad enough that Governor Noem doesn’t believe that the pandemic is real enough for her to do anything but go fundraising around the country, but for our own legislature to agree that we should take the CARES $$$ and bank them for “future expenditures” (i.e., never)? What a bunch of baloney. How about state-wide testing, state-wide vaccinations, state-wide help for schools? There’s plenty of places the CARES $$$ could be used now that would actually help South Dakotans.
    Or is that the point? If the GOP monolith that is the SD legislature actually helped people, they might find out that good government can work.

  7. cibvet 2021-02-10 13:47

    Eve Fisher is correct. If the money is used for the pandemic, it would be an admission that there actually is a pandemic and that people are dying because of noem’s inept attitude toward governing.

  8. o 2021-02-10 14:36

    I hear what Eve and cibvet are saying about how taking action now enforces that up to now has been neglect. But I think there can be some massaging that to trigger from new conditions like now that the vaccines are being distributed . . .

    I also still believe that even the Governor has acknowledged the economic hardships from the pandemic and those could be addressed. Again, make it congruent to “new conditions” like the cold weather snap makes us more aware of homelessness – something the pandemic made worse, so we will . . . . As we look to tax day, we are reminded of how hard incomes were damaged for the hourly wage earners, so lets . . .

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-02-10 19:55

    O, a $200M New Deal would run the risk showing that government can do good things.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-02-10 19:57

    Mike J, I am puzzled as to why South Dakota isn’t facing accountability for its nonuse and misuse of CARES Act dollars.

  11. RST Tribal Member at 57572 2021-02-11 06:40

    Federal dole passed out by the republican president should now be accountable to the Democratic administration. Nome, SD 1 party legislators and QAnon, as well as the white privileged domestic terrorists living on or near Indian Reservations are hoping the their redeemer trump will rise again; Easter is just around the corner. Over time and in time Thune, Rounds and dusty will be inserting language in a bill to allow SD to be unaccountable for the CARES dollars. The shiftiness unprincipled 1 party representatives in Pierre and Washington got a taste of unbridled power and seem to be binging on it since January 6. If the republican president and the white privileged democratic terrorists would have been successful in eliminating a few congress people being hunted on Jan 6, then put into play the Pillow Man’s plan, Trump would have made himself supreme leader. He and they failed, as planned Thune and Rounds will let trump off the hook. Dusty already did with his vote against impeachment, then he does a victory lap thumping his chest in western SD pretending to fight the lost caused pipeline battle.

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