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SD senators give the axe to township road levy

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PIERRE — Townships should not be allowed to charge a special tax levy for roads and bridges, a legislative panel decided Monday.

The Senate Taxation Committee voted 5-2 to kill the measure, HB 1140. The House of Representatives had approved it 48-20 on Feb. 18.

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A similar proposal passed in the House but died in the Senate last year.

The legislation from Rep. Burt Tulson, R-Lake Norden, sought authority for township residents at their annual meeting to approve up to 50 cents of tax per $1,000 of property value.

A two-thirds majority would have been necessary.

The state Revenue Department opposed the levy because townships can raise taxes above the standard limits through the opt-out process. Revenue statistics show 140 township opt-outs went unchallenged, while five went to local votes and four of those passed.

"We think there's no reason for that red tape if it can be handled at the annual meeting," said Dick Howard, lobbyist for the South Dakota Association of Towns and Townships.

There are 911 organized townships in South Dakota, most of them in the eastern half, with 31,000 miles of township roads, he said.

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