Last-minute negotiations Thursday night between Republican lawmakers and Gov. Dennis Daugaard will determine how much money schools and medical providers get next year.
By the end of the day Friday, legislators will adopt a 2015 budget. It could increase school and medical provider funding by the 3 percent Daugaard recommended — or it could go beyond that.
How much extra is uncertain, though it’s not expected to be the 3.8 percent increase requested by schools.
"I think everything’s still on the table," said Jason Dilges, Daugaard’s budget chief. "There’s been pretty broad support for spending a little bit more. How much, we’ll see (Friday)."
The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee met Thursday for just over an hour, passing a few uncontroversial amendments to the budget and killing many requests. Democrats saw an attempt to expand Medicaid shot down, while Republican calls to spend more money on tech schools and science research also lost. So did bipartisan projects like Teen Court and prenatal care for pregnant non-citizens.
Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, said she and other GOP leaders are “still negotiating” with Daugaard over how much to fund schools and medical providers. In particular, lawmakers are considering those providers who are “highly reliant on Medicaid dollars,” Peters said, rather than hospitals and clinics that treat more people with private insurance.
Previously, Peters has said any increase for schools would be earmarked for increasing teacher pay.
How much money there is for schools and providers will be determined by how much the state expects its Medicaid program to cost. As the economy improves, fewer people than expected are signing up for Medicaid, which saves the state money.
If lawmakers anticipate large savings, that’s more money to spend.
"Will there be additional reductions to fund other priorities?" Dilges said. "There’s so much uncertainty out there, so we need to make sure we have enough dollars to cover the what-ifs we’re not terribly comfortable with."
Dilges said Daugaard is wary of extra ongoing funding for schools and providers, since that spending also affects future years’ budgets. But the governor is open, Dilges said, to extra funding if he’s confident the state can afford it.
The Joint Appropriations Committee will reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Friday to resume action on the budget.