Pierre Direct Line By Rep. Judy Clark The final week of this legislative session is over. We were able to accomplish quite a lot, and with only a few evening sessions! These are a few of the most important issues.
Highway funding � This is probably one of the most important bills the Legislature passed. By raising the gas tax 4 cents a gallon, the state will have the matching funds of about $60 million per year, and counties, cities and townships will receive about $20 million for their roads and bridges.
We also enacted laws against over weight vehicles which so badly damage our roads. Fines are increased by 50 percent for vehicles overweight in excess of 3,000 pounds, and counties face a penalty of delay of state road funds for non-enforcement.
Education � The state special education formula was revised so school districts receive a block grant for students with milder disabilities, and payment per actual pupil cost for the more expensive severe disabilities.
Railroads and eminent domain � Before this session, railroads had the unrestricted power of eminent domain, which permitted them to take land for their use. The Legislature restricted this right by giving the govenor the power to intercede and require the railroad to meet certain standards. These standards include showing that the project will serve South Dakota shippers, has the financial resources to complete the project, has filed a plan showing the route, and has negotiated in good faith for the properties.
As the new line proceeds it will provide an immediate gain of $250,000 per year from repealed property tax benefits, and millions and millions of dollars in the near future in construction taxes and property taxes for schools and counties along the route.
Taxes � The inheritance tax exemption was increased for children and grandchildren from $30,000 to $40,000 as of July 1, 2000. The exemption will increase by $10,000 each year until it reaches $100,000 in 2006. It is estimated this tax break will cost the state $760,000 in lost revenue the first year with corresponding increases every year.
A proposed constitutional amendment will be on the 2000 ballot to allow for the creation of special classes of property taxes, such as ag land sold for high prices and held for future development.
Thanks to all of you who wrote or called. I really appreciated your thoughtful comments. I look forward to discussing issues with you in the future. Until next year � keep in touch!