South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Thursday bemoaned Congress’ restrictions on coronavirus relief funds allocated to the state, claiming “they tied our hands” to spend in areas that “aren’t really necessary.”
“Congress did send South Dakota $1.25 billion to us, but they tied our hands on how we can spend it. The only way I can spend this money is on Covid relief. I can’t spend it to replace revenues,” she said at a news conference.
“I can’t spend it to make up some of the difference that we’re seeing from our economy stalling and people not out shopping and participating in adding some sales tax revenue to our state budget or to our local city and local government budgets as well.”
Her comments come on the heels of a stunning surge of coronavirus cases in South Dakota. Noem, a Republican, has faced criticism for refusing to issue a mandatory stay-at-home order, even following an outbreak at a major pork processing plant in the state.
Still, her calls for the state’s federal relief funds to be allowed “to replace revenue loss” instead of funding “a bunch of new government programs” echo a growing desire among some Republicans to put an increased focus on halting more economic losses from the pandemic.
Governors in Georgia and South Carolina announced plans earlier this week to allow businesses to reopen in their states even as public health experts have repeatedly stressed the dangers of relaxing social distancing measures too early.
“You listen to members of Congress and the White House – they say they don’t want to bail out states that have been irresponsible,” Noam said. “I understand that.”
But, she assessed, South Dakota and other states that have “made good decisions” should have more freedom to spend relief funds as they see fit.
“It is not conservative to force a governor to spend money in areas that’s not necessary and not allow me just to conduct business in a responsible manner that South Dakota always has,” she explained.
“I need Congress to allow states like South Dakota that have made good decisions, wise decisions that have balanced our budgets to make sure that we have the flexibility to do what’s responsible.”