One man's efficiency is another man's absurdity. Check out these three slides from Governor Dennis Daugaard's 2015 State of the State Address.

(Governor Dennis Daugaard, South Dakota State of the State Address, 2015.01.13, slide 9)

(Governor Dennis Daugaard, South Dakota State of the State Address, 2015.01.13, slide 9)

Governor Daugaard told the Legislature that we don't want all of our roads to be in the best shape. Apparently there some actuarial calculation that tells us that we get the most bang for our highway buck if we maintain 30% of our roads in "excellent" condition and 50% in "good" condition while letting 15% slip into "fair" condition and 5% into "poor."

I can see the sense in this 80% sub-ideal. You can paint your house every year, but you're not getting much added value for your expense over the guy next door who settles for one good coat that maybe fades a touch but sticks for seven years.

Governor Daugaard reports that our roads actually exceed this 80% sub-ideal:

(Governor Dennis Daugaard, South Dakota State of the State Address, 2015.01.13, slide 17)

(Governor Dennis Daugaard, South Dakota State of the State Address, 2015.01.13, slide 17)

Governor Daugaard's translation of this slide: "Because of the stimulus, pavements today are a little better than we need them to be." Yes, the 2009 stimulus made South Dakota's roads too good. Blame Obama.

The seemingly crazy conclusion one could draw from this chart is that we could adopt neither Governor Daugaard's highway funding proposal or the interim Highway Needs and Financing Committee's Senate Bill 1, maintain the status quo, and cruise through 2018 before our roads would drop below that optimal 80% excellent/good ratio. Contrary to the opinion of your keester as you ride the washboard to Ramona, this slide says, There is no roads crisis.

Asserting foresight and frugality, Governor Daugaard says we should nonetheless act. He says his road-tax-and-fix proposal will bump those bars thus:

(Governor Dennis Daugaard, South Dakota State of the State Address, 2015.01.13, slide 18)

(Governor Dennis Daugaard, South Dakota State of the State Address, 2015.01.13, slide 18)

Compared to the status quo projections for 2024, Governor Daugaard's road expenditures would...

  • boost "excellent" roads from 25% to close to 50%;
  • boost the excellent/good percentage from 48% to just under 75%;
  • reduce "fair" roads from 27% to around 20%;
  • reduce "poor" roads from 25% to under 10%.

But but but but but: look where we end up. Governor Daugaard isn't living up to his own 80% standard. Under his action projections, he appears to squander the advantage the stimulus spotted us and lets South Dakota's roads decay to less than 75% excellent/good. Under Daugaard's plan, in 2024, our roads will be in worse shape than they are now.

Maybe those suboptimal outcomes are why Senator Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell) says the Governor's proposal is "a little too frugal." Maybe Governor Daugaard is afraid that letting anything in South Dakota remain "better than we need them to be" will degrade our self-reliant pioneer hardiness.

This much is certain: Governor Daugaard's road plan is no moonshot. The headline initiative that dominated his State of the State Address is really a low-aiming stopgap plan that lets slip quality that we enjoy now.