DPS pay raise announcement lacking details, lawmakers say

State lawmakers on the Appropriations committee say that they were not made aware of the raises prior to their announcement, and learned about them from Twitter.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem gives the State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022,...
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem gives the State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, at the South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre, S.D. (Erin Woodiel/The Argus Leader via AP)(Erin Woodiel / Argus Leader | AP)
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 7:59 AM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - Over the course of the past month, Governor Kristi Noem has announced pay raises for both members of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), and Department of Corrections staff.

“It is important to me that our law enforcement know that we support them and that we take care of them,” Noem said in an interview. “This pay raise is something that we wanted to do to make sure they know we value their service, we understand it is a dangerous job and it is something that we wanted to make sure we stay competitive with too.”

Noem announced by way of Twitter that raises were coming for DPS employees, to include state troopers, on August 24th. However, no press release, nor specific details, accompanied the announcement.

Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory emailed the Governor’s office to ask about the details of the raises, and in particular, how they were being funded.

Several days later, Noem’s spokesperson Tony Mangan sent a statement from the Governor’s Bureau of Finance and Management (BFM) Commissioner Jim Terwilliger.

“We provided this salary increase to Highway Patrol troopers, along with state correctional officers, as part of Governor Noem’s dedication to public safety in South Dakota,” Terwilliger said. “In both cases, the increases will be funded with existing resources that have already been appropriated in the FY2023 budget for these agencies. Troopers and specialists all received a $1.50/hour increase, and the total cost is approximately $513,000.”

Members of the Appropriations committee, like House Chair Chris Karr (R-Sioux Falls), say much remains unknown about where the money came from.

“The Appropriations committee met the same day (August 24th) that these were announced,” Karr said. “We had BFM in front of us, and this was not mentioned.”

Rep. Linda Duba (D-Sioux Falls), also a member of the Appropriations committee, says she still has questions about the funds as well that have not been answered. Including how they were paid for, what is the long term commitment for the budget to them, and why the changes weren’t reported beforehand to the committee.

Both worry that the politics of the November election could be at play.

“If I understood what was the rationale behind making the change, then I could tell you whether it was politically motivated or not,” Duba said. “But we do not have that information yet.”

It is not the first time that Noem and House lawmakers specifically have butt heads over spending authority. A number of House lawmakers sent a letter to the Attorney General’s office in March asking for clarification on if Governor Kristi Noem had the authority to appropriate money for childcare stabilization grants without further legislative authority.

Despite several inquiries, the Attorney General’s office has not provided an update on that inquiry.

“I’d say you’d have to ask the Governor why she doesn’t want to communicate with the legislature and the appropriations committee, and have discussions about spending dollars in the interim to determine how much of an emergency this is,” Karr said. “And also, why we didn’t have an opportunity to discuss what the commitment is that she is making for future budgets.”

Both Karr and Duba say they intend to ask BFM and DPS specific questions about the raises during their next Appropriations meeting on September 15th.