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HB 1183: Tax Drivers 40¢ a Year to Support Public Transit

Roger Chase's real platform
Truth in advertising….

If you’re trying to figure out where South Dakota Republicans really stand on taxes, don’t read their lips; read their bills. Representative Roger Chase (R-22/Huron) ran for office contending that costs of government are getting out of hand and that property taxes are too high. Yet Representative Roger Chase sponsors House Bill 1183, a bill to increase government spending and take more money out of your pocket.

Now the thing is, House Bill 1183 is a reasonable bill. It increases spending on a public service in which South Dakota underinvests: public transit. Nationwide, states spend 27% of their transportation budgets on public transit, yet South Dakota invests only 1.2% of its budget on buses and trains, the third-lowest percentage in the nation. (Only North Dakota and Wyoming invest less percentagewise; Minnesota invests 9.6% of its transportation budget in shared locomotion.) HB 1183 would create a new local transportation programs fund to support grants to transit providers.

HB 1183 would get its funding from a source where South Dakota undertaxes: driver license fees. South Dakota charges $28 for a new driver license, 19% less than the national average (as of 2018) of $34.70. Our driver license term is five years, a little lower than the national average of 5.6 years, so our per-year license cost of $5.60 is only 15% less than the national average of $6.62. HB 1183 would tack two dollars onto every new license issuance, regular or commercial. Taxing drivers 40¢ per year would still keep us below those 2018 national averages.

Essentially HB 1183 would charge every driver the cost of one trip on Aberdeen’s Rideline every five years. Since drivers aren’t using the bus, HB 1183 isn’t increasing a user fee; it is imposing a tax… and a sensible tax, one that says, hey, if you’re going to contribute to congestion and wear and tear on our streets, you’re going to help pay to relieve that congestion and wear and tear, reduce pollution, and increase services to your low-income neighbors via increased government investment in public transit.

Republican Representative Chase gets a chance to explain the wisdom of increasing taxes and government investment in public services Tuesday morning, 10 a.m., to the Republicans on House Transportion. (There’s no need to explain that wisdom to the two Democrats on the committee; we Democrats already get it.)


  1. Debbo 2020-02-17 14:10

    Public transit is a boon to disabled, elderly and other people who aren’t self-transporting.

    Here’s another tax SD ought to consider. It’s a VAT to pay for Andrew Wang’s UBI. In addition, it functions in a progressive manner, so the wealthy pay more. Sheila Kennedy has the details.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-02-17 20:51

    Interesting: the VAT by itself is unavoidably regressive, right?

    So, alas, is a flat $2 tax on every driver license. Is there a way to make that tax progressive?

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