January 5, 2022
As we prepare for the upcoming legislative session beginning next week, I wanted to take a moment to share what I anticipate to become policy discussions and changes that could pertain to constituents of District 24.
This legislative session will bring several discussions on the upcoming budget and how to allocate appropriate funding in a way that will set our state up for success. With the dollars received through federal stimulus funding, we will discuss how to invest in long-term projects that have positive effects for our citizens and the institutions that serve us. Some examples of these long-lasting projects include water projects, workforce housing infrastructure, and educational upgrades (i.e., buildings, programs, equipment, etc.). The other projects being considered for state and federal money in District 24 includes the expansion and remodel of the South Dakota Health Lab, renovation of the Cultural Heritage Center, and the initial investment for the Capitol Lake Master Plan. Due to the state’s ongoing revenue increases, the Governor has proposed a 6% increase for state employee, education, healthcare (Medicaid) salaries. There may be efforts by some legislators to reduce the amount suggested by the Governor, but I am confident the majority will support her proposal. I will support it as this is a huge win for central South Dakota where several thousand state employees work and live.
One of the more important topics for myself is funding a program for affordable housing to increase the workforce in South Dakota. Employers are in need of qualified workers to fill their open positions. Affordable housing is a major obstacle in filling these positions. As you may know, I served on a legislative summer study on housing. This study gave us the opportunity to hear from employers, developers, financial professionals, development directors, city officials, realtors, and many concerned with increasing the amount of affordable housing units.
I am pleased the Governor has committed general and federal stimulus funds towards the affordable housing effort to increase infrastructure construction. In last year’s session, I had numerous conversations with fellow legislators concerned with housing availability in their districts. From those conversations, it was apparent that all sizes of cities in South Dakota have housing challenges. These challenges vary, but the common thread is the high-cost infrastructure. Although the logistics of the funding is yet to be determined, I appreciate the Governor’s acknowledgment of this issue. I am optimistic that this funding will make a positive difference.
Lastly, I anticipate the social issues (i.e. Critical Race Theory, reproductive rights/restrictions, transgender persons participating in sports, etc.) will receive much attention, and you should know that I struggle with these. Obviously, all social issues are important, but sometimes I wonder whether legislation is needed to address them when local school boards, officials, and statewide associations are already in the “trenches” and know the realities firsthand. Some of my colleagues will say that an issue is so egregious that legislation is needed to give direction and leadership. When these types of issues come before me, I will be conversing, researching, pondering, and praying for direction. I take every vote seriously, as you deserve a fully engaged representative/employee.
Thank you for your interest and please contact me with any question or comment you may have. mw