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South Dakota Road Bill Buys Thune and Rounds Cover for Federal Highway Shortfall?

While a majority of Republicans cheer passage of Senate Bill 1, the $85-million transportation bill, complete with a six-cent increase in the per-gallon fuel tax starting April 1 (yup! Governor Daugaard signed it today!), an eager reader reminds me that, just over a year ago, the Daugaard Administration was telling us that there was no need to raise our road taxes:

South Dakota’s highways are in good shape and there’s no need to boost state highway taxes, Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist said Wednesday [Chet Brokaw, “Official Says No Need to Boost SD Highway Taxes,” AP via Pierre Capital Journal, 2014.01.15].

But, but, gasoline tax, purchasing power

“There is not a need today for additional state revenues,” Bergquist said after the legislative hearing. “Obviously what happens at the federal level has the potential to skew that substantially” [Brokaw, 2014.01.15].

Wait, what was that about federal funding?

Bergquist told state lawmakers he hopes Congress provides highway funding for the rest of the federal fiscal year as part of an overall budget bill expected to be approved in the next few days. Federal taxes are providing about $35 billion a year to the federal highway trust fund, but Congress has been adding other money to spend about $50 billion a year on highways.

One proposal would cut federal highway spending to $35 billion a year to match revenue receipts, which could cost South Dakota $80 million to $90 million a year, Bergquist said. That would have a devastating impact on South Dakota’s ability to maintain roads and bridges, he said [Brokaw, 2014.01.15].

Cut federal highway funding and short South Dakota $80 million to $90 million?! Whose lame-brained idea is that?!

House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica’s proposed transportation reauthorization bill includes $230 billion over six years, a reduction of 33 percent compared to spending levels in the last multi-year bill.

…To clear up a question I posed earlier, the bill calls for $35 billion of funding the first year with gradual increases until 2017, when $42 billion is allocated. The figures total $230 billion [Tanya Snyder, “Mica Transpo Bill Shrinks Spending 33%, Eliminates Bike/Ped Guarantee,” StreetsBlog USA, 2011.07.07].

It’s Republican Congressman John Mica, Kristi Noem’s good friend (no, not the one she went selfie-shooting on the Great Wall with who now has to resign over overbilling travel expenses—a different friend!). Uff da—thank goodness the Senate was there to check Mica’s cutting urges with their own proposal to spend more money on highways

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 17.56.48…but wait: that was the good old days, when we had a Senate controlled by Democrats. Now we’ve helped turn the Senate Republican by sending Mike Rounds to join John Thune to clap for Majority Leader McConnell and write notes to Iran. Mike and John might consider a federal gas tax increase, but golly gee willikers, they’ve both got re-election to think about. They’d really rather not raise taxes, but they can’t have South Dakotans noticing they’re  failing to deliver on basic infrastructure needs. Boy oh boy, wouldn’t it be nice if they could get someone who isn’t running for re-election to find them $80 million to $90 million to keep them from having to bite the bullet?

Dennis? Dennis! Thanks a million! Thanks $85 million!

Update 20:48 CDT: To be clear, SB 1 raises $85.75 million annually, according to this updated diagram of increased taxes and fees passed by your Republican supermajority (with just enough Democratic help):

2015 Senate Bill 1 raises $85.75 million in new revenue for road and bridge work in South Dakota.


  1. mike from iowa 2015-03-17 18:27

    That would have a devastating impact on South Dakota’s ability to maintain roads and bridges, he said [Brokaw, 2014.01.15].

    Yeah,like they’ve actually tried to keep up with infrastructure. Low tax.low service red states.

  2. John 2015-03-17 19:05

    Ah, the tax-and-spend republicans. They voted to subsidize the road destroying heavy trucks on the backs of families. At the same time they refused to reform the road maintenance cartel in this state where projects often go on for years with often apparently no one working on them, and the existence of unneed infrastructure like 2 interstate exits for every Bugtussle.

  3. jerry 2015-03-17 19:16

    80 mph will increase the gas used, so more tax there. Nutanyahoo will still be in power so the Likud will finance Tehran John yet again for re election. Will he have an opponent? Who knows. Whoever runs against him had better have the a barrel full of money though. Rounds hearts Stan and the feeling is mutual, so that helps give him cover locally. He also signed the war authorization letter for the Likud, so that gives him a blank check.

  4. larry kurtz 2015-03-17 19:19

    Jerry, your use of reason here at Madville 2.0 will not be tolerated. Please make a note of it.

  5. grudznick 2015-03-17 19:42

    This tax raise is outrageous and I’ll only pay for it through more expensive breakfasts!

  6. leslie 2015-03-17 20:01

    funny, funny, funny corey, and everyone but grudz

  7. jerry 2015-03-17 20:08

    Grandma and grandpa, no soup for you. NOem and her bloat have jumped the shark with what we have known for sometime. The beginning of the end for seniors and their gravy train (or is it cat food) with the privatization of Medicare. You know they will be coming after your social security next so go back to work, you slackers.

    Now that NOem’s doll is leaving the house, she might could answer why she wants to put grandma and grandpa out on the street.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-17 20:14

    Good grief, Jerry—the Republicans remain determined to dismantle our public works and services, don’t they?

  9. Roger Cornelius 2015-03-17 20:19

    The SDGOP has some nerve, patting themselves on the back for this new highway bill while ignoring our roads and bridges for decades.
    We have been both federal and state gas taxes for years and yet our roads have been allowed to deteriorate, some to the point where they are not usable.
    Now we can enter the crony capitalism corruption phase of this new highway bill. How many no-bid contracts will be let?
    As we approach spring in Rapid City and road construction starts, we can count on the intersection of Lacrosse and E. North St. to be torn up once again. This intersection has been rebuilt so many times I have actually lost count. Some contractor and potential political donor has made out like a bandit on this project.
    This scenario I laid out has probably happened in your town.

  10. grudznick 2015-03-17 20:19

    BAH, leslie, higher taxes are not funny at all.

  11. leslie 2015-03-17 20:29

    put in perspective kurtz blogs BHPL is building a cathedral to itself for $70 mill. in occupied Rapid City after standin rock college goes off the grid w/ solar power. funny.

    wonder how much BHPL financing costs compare to RC’s $180/420 mill civic center expansion voted down? Actually would be shocked if BHPL finances it.
    They don’t appear too upset w/ KXL’s big fail. wonder if they are KOCH BUDDIES?

    grudz, gravy gonna kill yah, wasicu

  12. grudznick 2015-03-17 20:39

    Gravy is comprised of a significant amount of fat floating in sort of a semi gelatinous form. Wasicu is probably an accurate term.

  13. barry freed 2015-03-18 09:36

    “Wasicu” is racist.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-18 09:39

    Wasicu when I say it, or racist when Indians say it?

  15. barry freed 2015-03-18 10:51

    Is it more or less offensive and racist depending on who says it? Less offensive and racist is still, offensive, racist, and dehumanizes us all a little bit more. But I could be full of it, please give us a sentence using the “W” word in a complimentary way.

  16. Bill Dithmer 2015-03-18 11:11

    You have a beautiful birthmark on your butt Wasicu.

    The Blindman

  17. Les 2015-03-18 11:15

    Whether it is racist or just derogatory, Cory, it is a wedge word. Driving a wedge on racism benefits none.

  18. Paul Seamans 2015-03-18 11:32

    Some facebook friends use “wasicu” to denote white men, others use it to refer to “fat takers” (greedy white men). I am not offended by the word if I can figure out it’s context in the conversation.

  19. Bill Fleming 2015-03-18 11:38

    Play that funky music white boy.

    Lay down the boogie and play that funky music till you die.

  20. jerry 2015-03-18 12:03

    Here is something that tries to be odd. It is not, it is just a hope for something better that the republican puts out there. They don’t mean a thing they say, but they say it to fool you into the belief they actually care and that they actually can govern. Both are far from the truth. Check this out

    In order to achieve this, they will have to do offset spending. Guess where that comes from? I will tell you, it comes from the working poor and the disabled along with the elderly by stealing their Medicare and food stamps. Same here with our infrastructure, the solution to all of this would be to expand Medicaid. It is so obvious it hurts my melon to think about. But here we go down the republican rabbit trail that never solves a damn thing, only to waste time and lives.

  21. jerry 2015-03-18 12:56

    Of course Larry, in South Dakota, what you are showing is taboo. We certainly do not want to be reminded of our past because that would interfere with our present to combat what we have in mind for the future. In the meantime, I suggest we all look at our bellybuttons so the continuation of poor governing by the dominant party can continue. Until a bridge falls into the creek carrying a load of school children, all is well. At that point, we can ask Tehran John and little man for some walking around money. They have about 20 million between them in campaign funds that they will never use, so come on boys ask the Likud or Sheldon to release the markers for your homey’s.

  22. Roger Cornelius 2015-03-18 15:58

    That wasicu newspaper, the Rapid City Journal, led with “gas taxes and speed limit rise on April 1”.
    The Journal comment sections are more interested in bashing Indians than are being outraged by republican tax and fee increases.
    Interestingly in this increase is the acceptance of republicans raising the gas tax on republicans and the rest of us.

  23. mikeyc, that's me! 2015-03-18 16:35

    At least they gave themselves a nice raise so they won’t have any trouble paying the new taxes.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-18 16:44

    Hang on, Mikeyc—those legislative pay raises didn’t pass. I think all they gave themselves was per diem for attending the budget address and the inaugural, in HB 1145. Did I miss a sneaky budget line?

  25. Dana P 2015-03-19 09:54

    My memory (even short term) is getting rusty. Didn’t the lawmakers pass a bill defining difference between fees and taxes? I thought at the time, it was silly language so that they could raise fees and not taxes, darnit! But I digress……

    This is right out of the ex-Gov Romney playbook. Raise this fee and that fee, and say that you didn’t raise taxes. Yeah, the raised tax at the pump is a tax increase, but the license plate increase is a “fee” increase. Cute, isn’t it? I remember during the 2012 Presidential campaign, that many folks from Romney’s state said that he had earned the nickname as Governor Fee Fee, because of the many fees he hiked to help with budget issues.

    How many additional “fees” have been added or increased this year? Past years?

    Roger hit the nail on the head……alot of hubris of these lawmakers….letting things go for so long, and now we are playing catch up. And, alot of hutzpah on the Governor’s part, after he signed the bill and he said, “Maintaining our roads and bridges is a fundamental function of government.” Well guys/gals, where have you been?

    Now, “we” can text and drive at a higher rate of speed! What could possibly go wrong? And is there enough money in the budget to have 80 mph signs manufactured and installed?

  26. Les 2015-03-19 11:21

    The fee charade is exactly why I’ve been on Rep Hickey for years about granny paying for my semi with her fees. I still hope his empathy for our elderly and impoverished might kick in and allow him to bring a light to our whole damn party.

    Eighteen wheels getting taxed as four and taxed identically if it weighs 1000 or 10,000.

  27. Lynn 2015-03-19 11:29


    I wish we had access to records and data concerning those 18 wheeler over weight violators causing damage to our roads and bridges. Just think of the small percentage our highway patrol actually catch compared to what’s out there. I’d be very curious as to what specific have the most violations.

  28. Les 2015-03-19 11:40

    I’ll catch hell from everyone here, Lynn, but it is mostly our local agriculture running overloaded or illegal.

    Over the road trucking for the 99% have too many scales and too little time to dodge them.

    Realize though, how much revenue is lost by wheel taxing without regard to weight. Also, my eighteen wheeler pays for only 4 wheels. I wish someone would prove me wrong on 4 wheels being the max wheel tax.

  29. Curt 2015-03-19 11:55

    Les –
    Read SB1, Sec 25. It address the re-vamped wheel tax option available to counties.

  30. Lynn 2015-03-19 12:02


    I suspect the same and agree with you on wheel taxing.

    When I travel mostly east river SD which has been quite often this past year much of the traffic are these grain trucks pulling pup trailers. How many of these are running over weight? I’ve never seen so many on the roads and rather see this commodity transported by rail which would seem far more efficient with proper investment. I realize rail has limitations too. Those locomotives are very efficient given their fuel consumption vs the tonnage they pull and saving our roads.

  31. Les 2015-03-19 13:09

    Yes, Curt. Now passing the gavel on fees to the counties. Still nothing on weight differential or how the counties decide on the number of wheels. Just a $60 max vehicle.

    My Polaris ranger at 1000 lbs has as much of a wheel tax as my 8000 lb diesel. Something about use tax stinks to high heaven.

  32. Curt 2015-03-19 13:54

    Well, Les I guess they expect us to do a little simple arithmetic and calculate that at $5 per wheel and $60 max per vehicle, that means they tax up to 12 wheels.
    I am by no means defending this tax – just helping you with the math.

  33. Les 2015-03-19 15:18

    The simplicity of the math is they can’t raise 4 wheels if they tax 18 wheels and this still doesn’t take into consideration the weight issues, Curt.

  34. barry freed 2015-03-27 08:34

    I hope you people don’t feel free to use the ugly “W” word in front of children.
    Thank you Cory for providing a “true liberal forum” for this racism to flourish unchallenged.

  35. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-27 17:35

    O.K., remind me how “wasicu” is a racist term. I may have to run the power-dynamic critique—racism involves not just derogating one race but using that derogation to maintain one’s own race’s institutional power over the target race.

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