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…
…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):