Governor Dennis Daugaard presents his budget address to the Legislature in Pierre this afternoon. I'll be at work, missing the governor's pronouncements in favor of my students' French pronunciation.
At work, I'll also be facing a 5.6% increase in my insurance premium. That's not bad, considering that my boss is staving off a 16% increase by hiking our deductible and burning up some reserves. Still, I'd like to think that Governor Daugaard might see fit to send a little financial support to help my colleagues and me absorb that increased cost.
Some less cautious folks might get their hopes up. South Dakota's taxable sales increased 9.2% in FY2011. That's just about $60 million more in state sales tax that we could put toward helping public workers pay their inexorably rising cost of living. We also saw bigger ups in taxable sales in July and October than the downs in August and September, so sales over the past four months are up 1.3% over the same four months in 2010. South Dakota has more money, so we ought to be able to spend more on teachers, right?
Don't bet on it. South Dakota's economy grew 4.28% in 2010, but Governor Daugaard and the Legislature still found it necessary to blow 6% to 10% holes in this year's state budget.
This year's per-student allocation for K-12 education is just slightly higher than it was five school years ago. Sure, lots of folks in the private sector are getting by on less than they used to, but that doesn't mean that condition is healthy. And I continue to scratch my head trying to figure out how South Dakota can have 23% more wealth than it did in 2006 and still not have more to spend per student for K-12 education.
I just heard my party chairman, Ben Nesselhuf, on SDPB expressing his hope that today's budget address would offer some proposals to start undoing that damage. But Governor Daugaard doesn't see setting education funding back five years as "damage." Those budgets cuts aren't something to fix. They are the permanent paradigm, the "new norm" Governor Daugaard called for in his FY2012 budget. And if nothing else, Governor Daugaard seems to mean what he says.
Expect no great increases in K-12 funding or any other major chunk of the state budget. The damage is done, and we are going to keep doing it.