Opinion: Condition of roads in SD alarming
The gas tax funds state highways and bridges for upkeep; license-plate fees and wheel taxes fund counties and townships. Counties and townships have 73,000 miles of roads and 3,200 bridges of which two-thirds need help. According to 2009 estimates, $80 million is needed to bring roads and bridges out of poor condition and $50 million is the annual cost to maintain. In 2010, $22 million was available for roads and bridges.
The photos of roads and bridges throughout rural South Dakota are alarming. These roads and bridges carry school buses, loaded with children, fire and police protection, ambulances, mail carriers and farm-to-market goods. Finally, we have a partial solution with a small increase in license plates and offering a 30 percent discount to 10 years and older vehicles. Fifty-two percent of vehicles and 85 percent of farm trucks will qualify for the 30 percent discount on license plates. It is worth noting one semi does the damage of almost 10,000 cars. The goal is to have noncommercial trucks at 60 percent of commercial trucks for licensing fees. Non-commercial or farm trucks can license for three to eight months if they choose. These increases will raise $18.1 million in 2011 and $12.9 million in 2013 for a total of $31 million. It won't cure the problem, but it is a step toward safer bridges and roads.
Last week, Social Services met with Appropriations. Discussions continue with the intent of coming to a solution that can work for those entities that rely primarily on Medicaid funding.
The governor's bill to allow a portion of the contractor's excise tax as funding for a business development fund passed out of the House. This is our hope for providing jobs for our young people staying in-state. Those opportunities are most often years in the making so we need to be positioned to take advantage of any opportunities we can get our hands on.
Education remains at the top of the list, with 47 cents of every tax dollar funding our education system. There are two bills that could lessen that blow: property tax held at the same level and using the capital outlay funds for building related expenses such as utilities and insurance on the structures.
The Senate bills will come to the House this week and we will have a chance to debate and discuss each of those in committee before they reach the floor of the House.
Many have e-mailed expressing an interest in a sales-tax increase. Hopefully by next week we will see how that lands as the budgeting process continues.
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Tona Rozum, a Republican, represents Davison and Aurora counties in the state House of Representatives.