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Legislative Wrap Up: Idaho, Iowa, South Dakota Pass Budgets

April 14, 2010

Lawmakers in Idaho, Iowa and South Dakota recently passed budgets for the upcoming fiscal year providing funds to help stabilize higher education funding, support research projects related to renewable energy R&D, and provide temporary operational support for an underground deep science laboratory.

Gov. Butch Otter signed into law HB 544, the Higher Education Stabilization Fund, setting up three accounts to help protect higher education funding from economic downturns. The bill redirects interest on revenue from tuition and fees at Idaho's state colleges and universities to a new strategic interest account within the newly established Higher Education Stabilization fund. The fund includes $114,000 in interest earnings available now, and lawmakers can appropriate money directly to the fund when a surplus is available in the future, according to a press release.

The appropriations bill signed into law for the Department of Commerce includes $29.5 million in FY11 funding and reduces the FY10 general fund appropriation by $321,900. Lawmakers approved $30.3 million for the department last year.

Earlier this year, Democratic legislators introduced the "Idaho Jobs and Opportunity Blueprint," a legislative agenda consisting of six bills aimed at job creation. The agenda, which failed to garner full legislative support, included a small business venture capital investment act, a green jobs component, and support for small business incubators.

Lawmakers allocated funding to support two of Gov. Chet Culver's major priorities for the 2010 legislative session, the Iowa Power Fund and the I-JOBS program. The Iowa Power Fund will receive $21.6 million, the same amount as the current year budget estimate, for research projects related to renewable energy. Established in 2007, the fund was set up to receive $25 million over four years to accelerate in-state R&D and knowledge transfer to improve the economic competitiveness of the state's renewable energy industry (see the May 7, 2007 issue of the Digest). So far, it has received $73.7 million in state funding.

To expand the I-JOBS initiative, lawmakers allocated an additional $150 million, bringing this year's budget total to $262.5 million, reports the Des Moines Register. The initiative was established by the legislature last year to invest a total $830 million in infrastructure, jobs, the environment, and flood relief through the issuance of bonds paid for with gaming revenue and existing tax revenues.

South Dakota
To provide bridge funding for the underground deep science laboratory at Homestake, lawmakers allocated $5.4 million from special funds, helping to keep the project alive until the National Science Foundation (NSF) steps in to run the program. Earlier this year, Gov. Mike Rounds told legislators the money allocated in 2004 and 2005 would soon expire and NSF funding would not be available until 2011.

The final budget does not include $970,000 recommended by the governor to establish a doctorate program in physics at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, reports the Rapid City Journal. University officials say the program is crucial for the state as it continues to be an active partner in the underground lab, the article states.

The FY11 enacted budget includes $4 million for the Division of Research Commerce, the same as last year. Funding for the Board of Regents is reduced $1.9 million for a total of $66.2 million, which includes general, federal and other fund expenditure.

The legislature overrode the governor's veto of HB 1060, providing a 55 percent tax refund for new or expanded wind energy facilities. The governor criticized the bill for spending in a difficult budget time and for providing special incentives for one industry.

A bill to repeal the state's stem cell research ban died in the Senate earlier in the session.

An enrolled version of the Appropriations bill is available at: http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2010/Bills/SB196ENR.pdf.

Idaho, Iowa, South Dakotaenergy