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Workforce housing panel sets some loose priorities

PIERRE -- Members of the Legislature's Workforce Housing Study met for the final time Thursday and agreed email would be how they choose sponsors of any legislation they'll recommend.

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PIERRE - Members of the Legislature's Workforce Housing Study met for the final time Thursday and agreed email would be how they choose sponsors of any legislation they'll recommend.

They want the Legislature to shift more money into a state program for worker housing. But beyond that goal, their talk and ideas weren't so clear.

Some wanted to more money to be available for job incentives, rather than letting Gov. Dennis Daugaard put all extra cash into reserve at the end of each budget year.

They also discussed other ways to get more money for the Building South Dakota program. The Legislature established the program over the objection of Gov. Dennis Daugaard but the governor has now choked its funding to a trickle.

"Either we value it or we don't. That's a discussion we need to have with the whole body," Rep. Jason Kettwig, R-Milbank, said.

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"I think that makes a lot of sense," Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City, said about Kettwig's idea to reset and simplify the funding sources. Lust is the study group's chairman. "It's not going to be a huge lift, I would think."

But Rep. Susan Wismer, D-Britton, said "any approach" taking more money from state government's general fund for business and job incentives shouldn't be supported by lawmakers who want more money for education and healthcare.

"We just can't do that," Wismer said.

Lust suggested a rebate or exemption for workforce housing projects to "entice" developers. That raised a question from Rep. Chuck Turbiville, R-Deadwood: How would the committee define workforce housing?

It can mean different things in Buffalo and Watertown, Turbiville said.

"I can see this being a huge problem without a definite guideline what workforce housing is," Turbiville said.

Lust replied: "It's been done. Nebraska and some other states have defined it. We wouldn't be re-inventing the wheel."

Rep. Roger Chase, R-Huron, said the Legislature should give more flexibility to cities and counties. As one step, Chase suggested state government fund a "bulldoze, build and beautify" program.

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He also recommended the Legislature reduce the current five-year period to three years for local governments to take deeds to properties delinquent on taxes.

Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, suggested reviving former Gov. Bill Janklow's program to spruce up South Dakota. Rep. Kyle Schoenfish, R-Scotland, agreed.

"There's these type of buildings everywhere," Schoenfish said.

County treasurers are putting together a complete rewrite of the tax-sale process, Lust said. He suggested the study group allow the treasurers to proceed with their legislation but also stay vigilant.

"It's obviously an important issue," Lust said about workforce housing in general. "I know it's important to many aspects of our local communities."

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