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Legislature Passes $85 Million Road Bill; Conservatives Unhappy

The South Dakota Legislature has passed Senate Bill 1, the road bill. I have yet to see a written copy of the final version of the bill; however, I am told the final dollar figure for SB 1 is about $85 million more in new revenue to fix our roads and bridges. SB 1 includes the following major points:

  1. The gasoline tax will go up six cents this year (instead of the gradual two-cent-a-year increases in earlier versions of the bill). That increase accounts for $39.5 million of that new annual revenue.
  2. License plates go up 20%. Regular car drivers, your fees go up from $30 to $36.
  3. Counties will be allowed to raise an extra property tax levy to fund road and bridge repairs. Counties with less than $1 billion on property valuation will have a maximum additional road levy of $1.20/mil. Counties with $1 billion to $2 billion in valuation will have a $0.90/mil maximum levy. Counties with more than $2 billion in valuation may levy no more than $0.60/mil. (The richer your county, the less you may tax—we may have just defined regressive tax.)
  4. The 80 mile-per-hour speed limit will take effect on the Interstates. It will tear up the roads faster and cost a few lives, but it will enhance revenue by encouraging us to burn up our gasoline faster.
  5. Senate Bill 1 declares an emergency, meaning your gas prices go up April 1.

With the added emergency clause, not to mention tax increases, SB 1 needed a two-thirds vote. The Senate passed SB 1 on a 25–9 vote. The House passed it 55–11. Perhaps worth noting: nine Democrats out of eleven present voted for SB 1. Had they wanted to make mischief, they could have voted in bloc against SB 1.

Rep. Thomas Brunner (R-29/Nisland) led off House debate arguing to send SB1 back to committee. After passage, Rep. Brunner said this tax increase is the biggest disappointment of the session:

At this writing (18:50 CDT), the Legislature’s work is not quite done. House Bill 1208, the general appropriations bill, awaits final action from the Appropriations Committee and debate and votes in both chambers.

Update 2015.03.14 21:22: I have updated the summary to include the 20% increase in license plate fees. I also misstated the emergency start date. SB 1 and its tax/fee increases take effect April 1.


  1. Jana 2015-03-13 19:53

    “Conservatives Unhappy?!?!”

    With who is the question.

    This is self loathing at its best.

    I could be wrong, but I think the whole damn place is run by conservatives. Or at least that’s what they tell the voters back home.

    The whole lot of them have some ‘splainin’ to do after passing the Daugaardian voodoo economics of education funding and passing on their “good stewardship” of state money to property owners, gift wrapping a crony laced debt collection contract to an out of state firm and raising the tuition tax on college students. (Didn’t they learn anything from the blusterf**k Manpower insider deal?”)

    There were crocodile tears to go around for everyone on these bills and yet they are all disappointed and sad that they, in their ‘collective brilliance’ voted for all of this and more.

    Good conservatives believe in local control…excepting when it means that locals have control.

    My guess is that all of them are hoping that the voters have a short memory. The bad news is that Cory and the rest of us here don’t.

  2. Jana 2015-03-13 20:02

    So what was Brunner’s solution to fixing our roads that the Republicans in Pierre have neglected for so long?

    That’s what I thought.

  3. Lynn 2015-03-13 20:12


    There are some big donors to the Governor ,a number of these legislators and the SDGOP that are going to benefit big time from this road bill.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2015-03-13 20:16

    Whoa! Talk about tax and spend conservative republicans. Oh well, they have been raising taxes and fees for South Dakotans for the past forty years.

    Here is the real question, what guarantee do overburdened South Dakotans have that Daugaard and company will do what the tax is intended? The SDGOP has allowed our highways to go to hell for the past 40 years and have not provided accountability for the taxes that were supposed to fix our highways.
    Where in the hell did that money go?

  5. Jana 2015-03-13 20:21

    The SDDP should have signs outside of every gas station saying that you the the governor and the GOP to thank for more expensive gas!

  6. Jana 2015-03-13 20:27

    ***Should be saying ‘thank you ‘ to the governor and the GOP.***

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-13 21:43

    Rep. Lana Greenfield, who owns a convenience store in Clark, said the increase in gasoline tax would drive truckers and others to look for cheaper gas elsewhere. Her son Senator Brock Greenfield made a similar argument on the Senate floor.

    Of course, truckers on I-29 will have a long stretch from North Dakota to Missouri; Iowa just raised its gas tax ten cents a gallon. Moody’s said that move will help their state’s credit rating.

  8. Paul Seamans 2015-03-13 23:13

    Raising the speed limit sends the wrong message about conserving energy. The 350 mile drive from Rapid City to Sioux Falls will only save a person about 18 minutes driving 5 mph faster.

  9. Steve Hickey 2015-03-14 01:04

    See the genius of it is the argus leader and other media outlets have people excited to go 80 mph and that’s what gets talked about instead of the matter that our taxes are being raised. The headlines are the best idea out of pierre in a long time. Wish I could have snuck in a few other things in the bill. ;-)

  10. Lynn 2015-03-14 01:23

    Rep Hickey,

    I don’t understand where this increase in the speed limit came from and suspect it was a diversion. Was listening to Political Junkies Wed noon on SDPB radio and Kevin Woster and Denise Ross were surprised since it came out of nowhere this session. During wet, icy or poor road conditions I try to avoid the Interstate especially going to Sioux Falls with so many drivers overdriving road conditions which one or two I later see in the ditch. This speed increase will just make it worse safety wise besides increasing fuel consumption. Energy independence right?

    With so much lack of trust in state government will this money be spent wisely on roads? Proper competitive bidding? Quality work? Roads need funding. We all know the road issues across the state especially the counties and local entities but when I look at the big SDGOP donors and how they will benefit from this related to this bill I’m skeptical.

  11. Alan Fenner 2015-03-14 09:44

    Amazing how easily this monstrosity was able to pass when we keep stiffing education. At least our young people will have good fast roads to keep exiting the state.

  12. Les 2015-03-14 10:03

    It’s just fine that we continue to hammer the taxpayers to bring teachers to a higher level of pay than the other trades in SD. But ask the SD Dems, Revvy and a couple of GOP gas station owners about having truckers, tourists and transient traffic share our road cost burden and all hell breaks loose. We apparently still think it is just fine to tax granny more regressivley than my trucks and cars with higher annual mileage. Good Lord, what’s next with you folks, double the taxes on false teeth and prunes?

  13. Lynn 2015-03-14 10:14


    What specifically would you have rather seen happen?

  14. Les 2015-03-14 10:24

    Our school district has opted out a couple of times to pay for our perceived needs. The gas tax is just fine. Those who burn the fuel need to pay for their use of our roads.

  15. Dana P 2015-03-14 12:01

    Well Les……property owners are picking up the tab also. Big time. I haven’t driven my house on the roads since……well, never! Many people that are not property owners, use the roads and bridges in this state.

    Property owners pick up alot of the tabs in this regressively taxed state…..lack of Medicaid expansion, infrastructure, etc.

    Gov D needs to send these folks back to the drawing board on this one. And explain to folks where the money has gone with the license fee increases, twice, in the last couple of years.

  16. Les 2015-03-14 12:15

    I’ve been very vocal here on my disapproval of fees, Dana. I’m all for repealing the fees and taxing based upon fuel consumption.

    Your property tax pays no road maintenance. If I want better educational tools at home, I’m ok with the opt outs we’ve had.

    Dana@ “Many people that are not property owners, use the roads and bridges in this state. “. That is why a consumption tax is the fairest road tax, Dana.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-14 12:25

    18 minutes saved, Sioux Falls to Rapid City—good point, Paul! Just four extra songs on the MP3 player.

    And check out this fuel mileage calculator, which says that cars get their advertised fuel efficiency at 55 mph and operate 23% less efficiently at 75 mph and 28% less efficiently at 80 mph. Enter the SF–RC trip in a 30-mpg car burning $3/gallon gasoline (it’s heading back up, folks), and you lose 1.5 mpg and spend $3.16 more. Is your 18 minutes worth $3.16?

    But from the state’s perspective, you burn an extra gallon of gas, meaning your faster trip puts an extra 22 cents plus the six new cents in the state coffers. And you probably come back at the same speed, so each round trip gives the state 56 more cents. Multiply 56 cents by the number of people who travel SF–RC and back each year, and you fill a few more potholes.

  18. Lynn 2015-03-14 12:44

    80 miles per hour of course 85 if you figure in 5 mph tolerance could help with general consumption revenue I suppose. Body shops, parts stores, salvage yards, tires, medical and unfortunately burial related expenses from additional vehicle crashes. Car repair from added stress to vehicles going those higher speeds. Yeah I can see badly needed additional revenue with increasing the speed limit. Good tactical move.

  19. jerry 2015-03-14 12:58

    Exactly Lynn and it makes for less bulky clean of of human remains on the highway. When you are more of a gooey mess, you can just be scraped up and tossed rather than being all bulky. You can see that on the side of the road when a deer is nailed. 80 means 87 to some and 100 to others. Smaller caskets and less lawsuits. Full tilt boogie down the highway to hell.

  20. Jana 2015-03-14 13:01

    I think we are giving the legislature too much credit for the 80mph being based in rational thought, it was just machismo driven we want to drive fast mentality.

    I remember driving home from Rapid on a Friday afternoon and watched 4 legislators blow right by me at speeds well above 80 talking on their cell phones. Scofflaws!

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just add “suggested speed limit” and keep the 75 mph signs up?

  21. mike from iowa 2015-03-14 14:16

    You could play Heard it Through the Grapevine,CCR @ 11:54 and then Derek and the Dominos-Layla-7:11 and you’d be there with nearly a minute of listening to spare.

    Too much confusion-Inna Gadda da Vida is just a tad under 18 minutes long. The rest of the time you could bleach your brain. You’ll prolly need it.

    Youtube has Gypsy Man(War) stashed back to back-about 24 minutes so you could listen to that once and then half of it again. I love Gypsy Man from the album Deliver the Word around 1972?

  22. jerry 2015-03-14 14:18

    It keeps on proving that republicans cannot figure what the extra usage of petrol does to climate change. This weather is unusual not only in South Dakota, but around the globe.

  23. Jana 2015-03-14 15:01

    Was there any input from the Highway Patrol on the 80 mph…you know the guys and gals that risk their lives every day to keep our roads safe?

    Given the safety factors, is there a separate speed limit for women who are or might be pregnant?

  24. Paladn 2015-03-14 15:21

    1. Speed: no change — legalizing status quo
    2. Roads: will not find repairs due to lack of labor willing to work for slave wages
    3. Increased gas tax: rationalized by Rep Party — “Hey, we lowered the price of gas by $2 per gallon, what’s 6 pennies.”
    4. Increased road taxes: Soon to be in the state surplus or to be used for majority party travel — not for intended purpose.
    Oh, yes, where are are KIDS in the mix?

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-14 15:54

    1. Incorrect, Paladn: the average speed people drive will increase. Some drivers will stick with their comfort level at 70 or 75, some will bump up to 80, and some will adjust their 4.99-over speed with the new limit to 84.99.

    2. That could be a problem. Darned free market.

    3. And watch what happens when gas climbs back up to $4/gal (predictions, anyone?).

    4. Indeed, a lot of that money goes to the state.

    Kids? Rep. Peggy Gibson said on the House floor yesterday afternoon that voting against SB 1 was voting to kill kids with bridges collapsing under buses.

  26. Curt 2015-03-14 16:34

    Wow, Cory. That last remark by Rep Gibson … makes me regret being of the same party. I will chalk it up to end-of-session fatigue.
    There are lots of legitimate reasons to oppose aspects of SB 1 – not the least the shady process by which the elements were negotiated. There is a reason they refer to it as ‘sausage-making.’

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-14 20:25

    Curt, I did find Gibson’s comment remarkable. SHe told the story of You can hear the relevant comments on the SDPB audio of Friday’s House session, starting at 1:20:30. She was responding to Rep. Brunner, who in a speech immediately preceding hers said he didn’t get why we were in such a hurry to pass the road bill. Rep. Gibson told a story of a bridge that collapsed in Beadle County shortly after a school bus loaded with kids drove over it. Hyperbole or accuracy?

  28. Jana 2015-03-14 20:39

    Hmmm…so if we care about kids, born and unborn, we fix the damn roads the legislature has neglected for too long and make speed limits safe.

    See, that wasn’t so tough.

    I’m sorry, I forgot that kids were only convenient tools to pass ideological bills for our legislature.

    Collective intelligence indeed. ht to Matt Michaels!

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-14 20:51

    And Jana, Rep. Isaac Latterell voted against the road bill. Latterell obvious wants to kill kids. ;-)

  30. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-14 20:55

    Les, hang on: who said the Democrats don’t support the gasoline tax? The majority of Dems in both chambers supported the road bill. The supporters all expressed heartburn, but I think their heartburn was more over the weird three-tiered property tax levy and the ugly process that made the bill worse as it went along. Heck, I might argue that the gasoline tax was better in Daugaard’s original form because it ensured that the gas tax would continue to “add purchasing power” every year. This bill hits us with six cents right away but stops. In a few years, we’ll be in the same boat with the 28-cent tax that we are now with the 22-cent tax, not generating enough revenue to meet growing road needs.

    Thank goodness we’ll be driving faster and buying more gas.

  31. Jana 2015-03-14 20:55

    Wow, you would think that the Highway Patrol would have been valuable in making this decision.

    One could speculate that they weren’t invited on purpose so they didn’t have to tell the truth.

    What was it that someone said about predetermined outcomes?

    Does the HP report to the Governor?

    Sorry, but not geting the experts on highway safety to testify is pure crap!

    Rev. Hickey, any insights you can give us on this one?

    Heck, our own Troy Jones has an inside track on that…but he’s been absent this session for some reason. Hope he’s well.

  32. Curt 2015-03-14 21:21

    Cory –
    Thanks for the perspective on Rep Gibson’s remarks. She’s a good legislator and I totally appreciate her service and dedication. It’s still a little hyperbolic, but let’s charge it off to end-of-session fatigue.
    Kids, bridges, busses – oh, the drama. I just hope they’ll have schools and teachers at the other end (please forgive the hyperbole).

  33. Les 2015-03-14 21:22

    The HP is conveniently absent here. I’ve contacted them in the past requesting legislation similar to other states that opened the records of commercial scales or didn’t allow offloading of overweight vehicles. Their reply, you can’t expect scale operators to know or understand that process. So, it appears you can only understand overweight if you wear a badge.

    My comment was the local commenters griping about a road tax. For the life of me I cannot understand Rep Hickey fighting to take the last dime from granny with those license fees when she only drives to church and already gives her last $5 dollar bill on Sunday.

  34. Jana 2015-03-14 21:25

    Les, I think your anger towards Rev. Hickey is misplaced. Can you think of anyone else that your ire might be directed towards?

  35. Jana 2015-03-14 21:29

    Hey Tony V, or sponsors Senators Vehle, Omdahl, Parsley, Tidemann, and White and Representatives Duvall, Anderson, Hunhoff (Jean), Schaefer, Verchio, and Werner.

    We know you read the blog. Any of you have the courage to tell us why the HP wasn’t consulted or invited to testify? Did someone block that testimony? Was is an oversight of poor governing?

    Do please tell.

  36. Jana 2015-03-14 21:33

    Just another quick question for Tony V, or sponsors Senators Vehle, Omdahl, Parsley, Tidemann, and White and Representatives Duvall, Anderson, Hunhoff (Jean), Schaefer, Verchio, and Werner.

    Who introduced the 80mph amendment and who lobbied that person.

    Any way we can see all the emails that circulated around SB1?

    Oops, my bad. The people don’t need to know…collective intelligence and all.

  37. Les 2015-03-14 21:44

    Please don’t confuse facts with anger, Jana. Rep Hickey has voted with increased fee proponents for some time now. I appreciate what he does in many areas and probably should just shut my mouth if that is what it takes to get Revvy to reconsider granny’s inflated licensing charges.

  38. Jana 2015-03-14 22:01

    Point taken Les. Does this Granny that Rev Hickey is trying to bankrupt also need Medicaid expansion? Or does your concern for this hypothetical Granny end at the gas pump.

    I am inclined to believe that you conjured up this Granny for your own argument. Can we use this Granny to show how other legislation is harmful to her?

    God bless you for looking out for the little gal/guy!

  39. Les 2015-03-14 22:14

    Thank you, Jana. I’ll never turn down a blessing however misguided it may be.

    This granny has been my argument here for as long as the license fees have been promoted. Don’t ya remember my trucks don’t pay more wheel tax than grannies car, Jana?

    Medicaid, cannabis, abortion, what else can you tie to my arguement for a road fuel use tax.?

  40. Jana 2015-03-14 22:47

    Let’s see Les.

    Granny probably doesn’t need an abortion, but if she doesn’t have adequate insurance to deal with cancer then maybe a little pot could relieve the pain.

    So I guess I’m torn, but we’ll stick with medicaid as healthcare costs for many seniors is the biggest challenge they face.

    But to your point on the gas tax. Think of the kids who were just voted a reduced wage or college kids who just watched their tuition go up…again!

    Spread your love around Les…there’s plenty who need it.

  41. John 2015-03-14 23:00

    The premise that a higher speed increases road wear is false. What causes road wear, tear, damage, and early failure are heavy vehicles. Period. Heavy vehicles cause exponentially more damage than do passenger cars or pick-ups. All heavy trucks are heavily subsidized by the fees and taxes paid by the masses of passenger vehicles – which cause negligible highway damage. Here this state goes again with subsidizing government free-loaders while the rest of us pick up their tabs. The bill should have exponentially raised license fees on heavy trucks while leaving the fees for passenger vehicles alone.

  42. mike from iowa 2015-03-15 06:48

    Here is a study from 1992 to determine the effects of raising and lowering speed limits on speed and accidents. The results all around surprised me.

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