The Legislature voted yesterday to throw more money at itself:

The Legislature is “by far the least costliest” of the three branches, [House Speaker Brian] Gosch said. When its staff are overworked, “they make errors.” Approving extra funding, he said, well make the Legislature “a more effective legislative body.”

[Senate Majority Leader Russell] Olson praised hiring some partisan legislative staff.

“We have to rely on the nonpartisan nature of the LRC to keep secrets… that puts them in an unfair position at many times,” Olson said [David Montgomery, "Legislature Approves $500K Hike to Own Budget," Political Smokeout, 2013.03.08].

So the Legislature needs to increase its budget to reduce errors and keep more secrets.

O.K. Let's assume that the overwork under which our legislators suffer comes in part from the 7.4% budget cut the Legislature took in Governor Dennis Daugaard's FY2012 "new norm" austerity budget. Let's apply similar fiscal logic to K-12 education.

  1. The Legislature has 105 primary workers, our elected representatives and senators.
  2. They work for 2 months each year.
  3. They are giving themselves $493,000 above what a 2.1% increase for inflation would put in their budget.
  4. Gosch and Olson are saying they need about $2350 more per legislator per month to get their jobs done.
  5. Our K-12 public schools have just over 9,000 teachers.
  6. We work for 9 months each year.
  7. If Gosch and Olson felt teachers needed a budget increase proportionate to what they are giving themselves to do their jobs better, they'd increase state aid to K-12 education by ($2350 times 9 months times 9000 teachers) $190 million.
  8. In general education, special education, and technology funds, Gosch and Olson are giving K-12 education $15.8 million above a 2.1% increase for inflation.
  9. In other words, teachers only need $193 more per teacher per month to deal with whatever factors are making their jobs harder... a twelfth of what Gosch and Olson are giving themselves.
  10. We could go ape and look at the total allocations for the Legislature and K-12 education per worker per month. If it took as much money to help 9000 teachers do their work each month as it takes to help 105 legislators do their work for 2 months, South Dakota would spend $3.24 billion on K-12 education, not the $390 million appropriated in the FY2014 budget.

Here's another budget perspective: if you look at the last six state budgets, you see that both the Legislature's operating budget and the state aid to K-12 education have finally returned to FY2009 levels. K-12 aid will be 0.8% higher than it was in FY2009; Gosch and Olson will operate with 6.7% more than they had in FY2009.

I guess it's a good thing we teachers can operate much more efficiently than our legislators.

Reference: South Dakota State Budgets as Passed by Legislature: