Legislative Report by Sen. John Reedy The most significant topics discussed last week in Pierre were road funding, agriculture and video lottery.
On Wednesday night the Senate State Affairs Committee considered two road-funding proposals. Senate Bill 233 would raise the gas tax by 3 cents and increase license plate fees by $12. The money from the tax increase would go to counties and local governments for road repair. The other proposal, SB 241 would leave license plate fees at their current level but would raise the gas tax by 5 cents. Three cents would go to the state, while 2 cents would go to counties and local government for road maintenance. SB 233 has now moved out of committee and will soon be scheduled for deliberation by the full senate. SB 241 has been, at least for now, tabled by the committee.
Frankly. I strongly believe that SB 241 is the stronger bill and does more to help our economy. The cost of fixing the back-log in our town, township and county road repairs is estimated at $1.8 billion. That's a lot of money. We need to devise a plan that takes a long term, careful approach to solving this problem. SB 241 takes such an approach. The bill gives counties access to gas tax revenue. This is a source of revenue that grows with the economy. As greater demands are placed upon our roads, the funding for them grows as well.
A license plate fee increase, on the other hand is a sort of band-aid approach. It will not provide adequate revenue to significantly reduce the local road repair back-log, nor will it provide to local governments a source of revenue that will increase with inflation or with increased demands on the roads.
Furthermore, a gas tax is a user's tax. People who use the roads less will pay less tax, those that use them more will pay more.
A license plate fee increase hits people indiscriminately. If you have a vehicle that you do not drive very much, you will still pay the full fee increase to license it.
I have also watched with some sadness as some very good agriculture bills died this week in the House Agriculture Committee. House Bill 1233, Which would have prevented large meatpackers from owning their own feedlots, was killed in committee. This legislation would have protected our livestock industry in case Amendment E is struck down by the courts. The Committee also killed HB 1286, which would have required South Dakota to follow its own meat-labeling law. Under South Dakota Law, meat sold at retail is supposed to be identified by country of origin. Consumers like this proposal because it gives them the option of buying locally raised products; farmers and ranchers like this proposal because it helps them develop loyalty to American products.