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Bringing Lawmakers and Citizens Together to Build a Budget

December 3, 2010

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The most important bill passed each year by the South Dakota legislature may be one of the least understood. The budget, which is usually passed in the final hours of each session, has an impact on every citizen.

Joy Smolnisky, director of the South Dakota Budget and Policy Project, says they have been studying the issue.

"I have learned that it is a complicated process, and trying to make it simple is a challenge. But we have to make it understandable so citizens can think about the budget and be participants and be part of the public dialogue on what fiscal policy should be in the state."

Smolnisky says they are releasing their "Budget Primer" and launching a website to help citizens better understand the system. The primer and other information are available online at www.sdbudgetandpolicyproject.org.

Robert Burns, South Dakota Budget and Policy Project advisory council vice chair and professor emeritus of political science at South Dakota State University, says while legislators hold hearings on the budget, they don't offer much background information.

"There hasn't been much of an affirmative effort to do the research and work in an aggressive way to educate the public about the complexities and intricacies of the budgetary process, which in the end is the very essence of the political process."

Educating the public about the budget process is one big way to improve government, Smolnisky agrees.


Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD