The stimulus package working its way through Congress includes $167 million in state budget assistance for South Dakota. An expert on SDPB this morning says much of the money will be tagged for education, so it can't plug all the holes in our budget. State budget officer Jason Dilges is also saying the Legislature might need a special session to incorporate any federal aid into the state budget.
Hold on: I'm skeptical on both claims. If a big pot of money (yes, it's a handout, more welfare for South Dakota) is headed our way, even if every penny is designated for education, I can't believe some creative financial whizzes in Pierre couldn't find some way to shift that money around to cover the other gaps in the budget. (Just ask the shell-gamers at the Board of Regents: surely they can come up with a creative idea like their payday shifting scheme.)
And a special session? No way! As I understand it, President Obama and the Congressional leaders have set a due date of February 13 for final passage and signing. The legislative session runs through March 13. That's 28 days, kids. Our legislators usually put together the budget in the final week anyway. We know it's coming, we know it's going to be big, and we know John Thune ultimately isn't going to stop it (though he's getting good press being cranky about it).
So here's what you do: make a spreadsheet. Enter every budget line item in Columns A and B to reflect a budget with absolutely no stimulus package assistance. In Column C, you enter percentages that reflect what chunk of the coming stimulus would be assigned to each budget item (those need to add up to 100%). At the top of Column D, enter $167M, for the amount of federal stimulus in the pending federal legislation. Heck, you might not even need to enter the number manually: you could probably just link that cell via Web query to some web page at the CBO or the White House to automatically update the budget aid figure. Then in the rest of Column D, you enter simple formulas that calculate the post-stimulus funding for each item.
Then, the day President Obama signs the bill, we simply open up the spreadsheet, print Column D (well, better include the line item descriptions from Column A), and pow: there's your budget.
See? Not hard. No special session needed.
You know, my Excel students at DSU have their final exam on Feb. 18. This sounds like a really good final exam....
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