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Legislators Recommend State Consider Raising Mileage Reimbursement from 2015’s 42-Cent Rate

Maybe those LRC staffers are leaving because we don’t pay them enough for gas.

Senator Larry Zikmund (R-14/Sioux Falls) placed on the Legislative Executive Board’s Monday agenda a discussion of how much the state reimburses employees for travel.

In response to Senator Zikmund’s inquiry, LRC fiscal analyst Joseph Knofczynski whipped up this memo noting that South Dakota currently pays 42 cents per mile to employees who drive their personal vehicles on business. The state has no formula or schedule for setting that rate; the Board of Finance just picks a number, occasionally. The last occasion was 2015, when the State Board of Finance raised the reimbursement rate from 37 cents to 42 cents. Knofczynski reports that’s equivalent to 52 cents in today’s money.

Knofczynski notes the IRS has set this year’s federal mileage reimbursement rate at 58.5 cents per mile. The IRS updates that rate each year for inflation. The rate actually ticked back from 58 cents to 57.5 in 2020 and 56 in 2021. The rate previously peaked at 58.5 cents in late 2008, then dropped to 55 cents in 2009 and 50 cents in 2010. The federal mileage reimbursement has been above 42 cents since 2005.

The state Finance Board, which consists of the Governor, the elected state constitutional officers, and the chiefs of Finance/Management and Administration, meets almost monthly, but they’ve slacked off on publishing their minutes—no records of proceedings have been posted since November.

At Monday’s meeting, Senator Derby said he’d be hard-pressed to ask for legislators to get more than what state employees get, so he said we ought to raise the reimbursement for everyone. Derby moved to ask that the Board of Finance review the reimbursement rate; that motion carried on a voice vote with just one audible dissent.

How much would an increased mileage reimbursement cost the state? Knofczynski provided a chart showing that, over the last five fiscal years, the state has usually spent around $1.3 million or $1.4 million on gas for employees’ use of personal cars:

Joseph Knofczynski, memo on state mileage reimbursement rate, Legislative Research Council, 2022.04.21.
Joseph Knofczynski, memo on state mileage reimbursement rate, Legislative Research Council, 2022.04.21.

Note the 30% drop in Fiscal Year 2021—yay, coronavirus!

If we take $1.3 million as a normal yearly cost, at 42 cents a mile, that’s about 3.1 million miles of state employee travel in private vehicles. Divide that out over about 13,000 state employees, and that’s roughly 240 miles per employee per fiscal year. Of course, a majority of legislators put on more miles than that in just one trip to Pierre, and the typical legislator easily makes over a dozen trips to Pierre per year (at least nine round trips for Session, plus budget address in December, plus at least a couple interim committee meetings…).

Boost the reimbursement to the current federal rate of 58.5 cents per mile, and at the above rates of travel, the state’s total mileage reimbursements for all employees would increase to $1.8 million per fiscal year.

10 Comments

  1. Sheldon 2022-04-27

    I am in support of this because we need to incentivize better candidates to run for the legislature. Right now, great, competent leaders cannot afford to leave their jobs to be a legislator for 9 weeks; however, if we provide better assistance, maybe we won’t only have crazies running for office in this state…

  2. Donald Pay 2022-04-27

    My agency always used the federal rate for reimbursement. They should use the federal rate, but encourage car pooling and cut back the salary.

    I think they should be paid based on performance. By my standards, they would get $0,0.

  3. Mark Anderson 2022-04-27

    Just change one word, they could use kilometer instead. Screw the Liberians.

  4. ABC 2022-04-27

    Incentivize? Full time Legislature, 36K to 40K a year, Meeting January to October.

    Part time legislature? No

    Vote NO on C! Today!

  5. larry kurtz 2022-04-27

    Republican is simply another word for whiner.

    New Mexico’s “citizen legislature” of volunteer politicians has long been a source of civic pride in the state. Members receive a roughly $165 daily stipend during sessions and some money for gas. Longstanding legislators qualify for an optional pension plan. New Mexico’s Legislature meets for as few as 30 days a year, with 60-day sessions in odd-numbered years.

    https://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/local/new-mexico/legislature/2022/01/25/some-legislators-new-mexico-tire-amateur-status/9205694002/

  6. Arlo Blundt 2022-04-27

    Well..there is a state motor pool and the typical state employee, the highway engineer and vocational rehabilitation counselor, almost always drive a state motor pool car, and are often accompanied by other state employee(s) scheduled for work in the same locality. Private cars are approved only when there is no state motor pool car available for the typical state employee. Private cars are generally only approved for “exempt” employees, those working at the pleasure of the governor, legislators obviously qualify, and, occasionally, a typical state employee bound for an “off the map” location, rural, and with a Sunday night departure date. That used to be the situation, as I recall. There was an angle, to request the use of a personal car when traveling to an overnight stay in the Black Hills during summer vacation times as the state motel reimbursement was only a fraction of the actual cost and a state employee could make up the differential, to a degree, with the personal car reimbursement. Back in the day, nobody made any money on your state reimbursement. It’s a lot of miles on the old buggy to get anywhere from Pierre, and back.

  7. grudznick 2022-04-27

    Mr. Blundt, these fellows need to just stay home and not be galivanting around the state on the taxpayer’s nickels. Why don’t they use the Zooms to have their meetings? Sell all the state motor pool. Stop going off the map. And for sure, stop vacationing on government dole. That’s the sort of thing that would really get Ms. Taffy’s hair all afriz if she was still in the legislatures.

  8. Arlo Blundt 2022-04-27

    Grudz–great idea to use Zoom and I hope they are…believe me, state employees, almost to the man or woman, hate traveling the state but, guess what???? South Dakotans are often adamant about meeting face to face with “the State” to resolve issues and disputes of all kinds and, guess what???, the Governor and her appointed minions often insist on sending someone low on the totem pole to put out the brush fires.. you and Taffy are very simplistic as to how the whole bureaucratic mess is used to prop up politicians….including those in the legislature.

  9. grudznick 2022-04-27

    If the government is sending minions out across the state to resolve things, I submit that the people who need things resolved need to try out the zoom or drive to Pierre and stand in line with the other fellows who need resolving. I do not understand why the government would be giving curb service, like some sort of fast food ride share, to disgruntled people here in Rapid City who didn’t pay their taxes or want free things. grudznick is never going to understand government completely before I die, so I’ll just have to live with that.

  10. Arlo Blundt 2022-04-27

    Well..grudznick…the reason state employees drive to Rapid City to attempt to find a solution to issues or resolve conflicts is “constituent service”…no state employee, except those at the highest pay, grade travel anywhere at their own discretion. All state travel is assigned by a supervisor and approved by those higher up the food chain….there was a travel approval form at one time that required seven signatures before the employee could leave Pierre…I think the Janklow administration simplified it…but the state employee, with the possible exception of Department Secretaries and folks working directly for the Governor, has no authority to assign his or her own travel or approve it. Often, the assignment comes from a request from a Minister, a school official, county commissioner, or County Party Chair. The employee’s work on site is evidence that our elected leaders “really care”, about the citizens of South Dakota. In the end, it’s often a political deal and the way government works. In other cases it’s just a way to moderate a controversy and provide some resources to reach a resolution. Believe me Grudz, it isn’t poor people who call on Pierre to be involved in their issues. You don’t understand the needs of the wealthy. Some can be very needy.

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