Perry Groten asked Senator Dan Lederman on last night's Inside KELOLand to discuss the significance of the transportation bills before the South Dakota Legislature.

The flauntingly conservative Republican PACker from Dakota Dunes proceeded to destroy every anti-tax, anti-stimulus argument ever:

This is the first time in sixteen years that we've addressed transportation funding, so it's a conversation that's been long in the running, that we need to have. It's a tough decision, because when you're talking about increasing taxes, people's pocketbooks are going to be affected and it's a very serious discussion.

But it also has some good upsides, because we're looking at being able to improve those roads. Even though the tax dollars come out of the economy, they do go back in when we start talking about the contractors, the materials, and the work that will be done over the next few years.

So it's actually a pretty big impact for the economy, and it's a great impact for our farms and for our businesses that need to use those infrastructures to be able to get their product to market [Senator Dan Lederman, Inside KELOLand, 2015.02.15, timestamp 8:30].

Translation: taxes don't make money disappear from the economy. They go right back into the economy to buy things, boost the economy, and invest in the public goods the free market needs to survive.

Barack Obama, Robert Reich, and I couldn't have said it better ourselves. Thanks, Dan! We'll keep that lucid defense of the upsides of increasing taxes for public investment handy for the next time Grover Norquist comes peddling his pledge.

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On Inside KELOLand last night, Senator Scott Parsley (D-8/Madison) said that the Highway Needs and Financing Committee, of which he was a member, identified $240 million in road maintenance needs. The committee proposed tax increases to fund $101 million of those needs. Governor Dennis Daugaard said that was too much to spend on roads that he thinks are in too good of shape. He proposed a counterplan to raise taxes just over $50 million for road repairs.

The two bills are now essentially one, as the committee's Senate Bill 1 has been hoghoused to reflect the Governor's House Bill 1131. That's how compromise works in Pierre: a committee studies a problem, hears from experts, identifies urgent needs, proposes a plan to meet just 42% of those needs; then the Governor says, "No, let's do half of that," and the Legislature shrugs and says "O.K."

The Governor lacks vision, the Legislature lacks courage, and neither branch is addressing the full scope of our road-repair needs.

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Gordon Howie says House Bill 1030, which would require passing motorists to give cyclists three to six feet of space, is a stupid idea. To boost his point, Howie misrepresents the text of the bill:

The South Dakota Department of Transportation wants to force drivers into the lane of oncoming traffic, to accommodate bicycle riders. The SD House transportation committee unanimously agrees [Gordon Howie, "Move Over Stupid," The Right Side, 2015.02.12].

Read the bill, Gordon:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction may partially cross the highway centerline or the dividing line between two lanes of travel in the same direction if it can be performed safely [House Bill 1030, as amended and approved by House Transportation, 2015.02.10].

HB 1030 says may, not shall. It allows drivers to cross the center line if said crossing "can be performed safely"—i.e., if there is no oncoming traffic. HB 1030 does not force anyone to play chicken.

Howie hollers thus to take the anti-liberty position that South Dakota should ban bicycles from some of its finest scenic roads for cycling:

Ask drivers on South Dakota’s Lower Spring Creek Road.  They will tell you that sightseeing bicyclists already create an extreme hazard.  They will also tell you this proposed law would make matters exponentially worse.

A BETTER SOLUTION would be to prohibit bicycle traffic on roads that do not meet specifications that allow safe travel for BOTH motor vehicles and bicycles [Howie, 2015.02.12].

Gordon, you're not allowing safe travel for bicyclists if you aren't allowing bicyclists to travel.

The solution is not to ban people from getting around under their own power and enjoying their freedom from car payments and petro-tyranny. The solution is to accommodate alternative transportation with sensible rules of the road like HB 1030 and infrastructure accommodations like bike paths and big shoulders.

Gordon Howie the conservative wants to limit your freedom to travel. I the liberal want to expand your liberty and let all travelers enjoy the safe mode of travel of their choice.

p.s.:  Wisconsin estimated that the bicycle industry—manufacturing, retail, etc.—contributed $556 million and over 2,000 direct ongoing jobs to its economy. Bicycle tourism may contribute over $900 million to Wisconsin's economy, plus another $400 million in health benefits.

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The House Transportation Committee gave bicycle safety a kind nod today. After three weeks of arduous discussion and deferrals, House Transportation decided just how wide a berth cars ought to give bicycles. House Bill 1030, as originally drafted by the state Department of Transportation, asked drivers to give bicyclists three feet. House Transportation went further, today amending HB 1030 to say three feet is fine where cars are going 35 and under, but six feet is needed if the posted speed limit is higher. House Transportation's new version of the bill lets drivers cross the center line to give that gap (which lots of drivers already do for me out in the country, thank you very much!). The committee, including my new Rep. Kaiser and occasional blog visitors Rep. Hickey and Rep. Schoenbeck, all voted aye and sent HB 1030 to the House floor.

But hang on, cyclists: the Legislature's respect may come at a regulatory price. More two-wheeler dealing awaits House Transportation in House Bill 1214, in which numerous Republicans would tell bicyclists what to wear:

Any person operating a bicycle on a highway shall wear garments made of fluorescent or reflective material. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor [House Bill 1214, original version, filed 2015.02.03].

Oh well: there go plans for bringing World Naked Bike Ride to South Dakota. (There is such a thing, designed as a protest against vehicle emissions. I'd link, but they're really naked, and this is a family blog. ;-) )

The Republican sponsors of HB 1214 probably wear belts and suspenders. An eager reader notes that SDCL 32-17-25 already imposes the following visibility requirements on bicycles:

Every bicycle shall be equipped with a lighted lamp on the front thereof visible under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of at least three hundred feet in front of such bicycle and shall also be equipped with a reflex mirror or lamp on the rear exhibiting a yellow or red light visible under like conditions from a distance of at least two hundred feet to the rear of such bicycle [SDCL 32-17-25].

If you can't see my mandatory lights and reflectors at night, is my hot pink shirt going to help?

Of course, if the batteries go out on my winkie-blinkies, SDCL 32-17-25 only lets Officer Kaiser write me up for a petty offense and charges me $25, same as he would if the headlights or taillights on my Volkswagen went out. HB 1214 whacks dim Goth riders with a Class 2 misdemeanor, which means the fashion police really could put me in jail.

Hmm... hurtling down the highway in two tons of metal death without headlights poses more risk to public safety than my pedaling thirty pounds of aluminum and granola bars down the street without a garish shirt. The penalties don't seem proportionate to the "crimes." And if we're regulating cyclists for their own safety (and I do look forward to hearing the Republican sponsors make that argument), where's the reflecto-vest requirement for walkers? Pedestrians are at a greater risk of getting hit by cars than cyclists, since pedestrians can't move as fast to get out of the way.

Rep. Nancy Rasmussen is prime sponsor of HB 1214. Reps. Jim Bolin and Jim Stalzer are among the co-sponsors. Those three voted for HB 1216 today in House Transportation; let's see if those three draw a connection between requiring drivers to move over for bicycles and requiring bicyclists to wear brighter clothes.

Bonus Questions: HB 1214 says cyclists "shall wear garments made of fluorescent or reflective material."

  1. Does garments, plural, mean each cyclist must wear more than one bright and/or shiny piece of clothing?
  2. Do my reflective ankle-straps count as "garments"?
  3. Does the entire garment need to be made entirely of fluorescent or reflective material, or will black jogging pants with little reflective lines and patches satisfy HB 1214?
  4. Looking at the wording of HB 1214 very carefully, can I still wear my favorite black bike pants and jacket as long as I wear glittery underpants underneath?
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How I wish I could be in Aberdeen to join Ken Santema at the Legislative crackerbarrels! My Libertarian blogospheric colleague is providing excellent coverage of Legislative issues. Yesterday he got hold of a useful handout from Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) comparing the costs of the competing road-tax-and-fix bills proposed by Governor Dennis Daugaard and by the interim Highway Needs and Financing Committee:

Comparison of Daugaard and Interim Committee Road Tax Proposals, distributed by Sen. Al Novstrup, published by Kan Santema, SoDakLIberty, 2015.01.24

Click to embiggen—Comparison of Daugaard and Interim Committee Road Tax Proposals, distributed by Sen. Al Novstrup, published by Kan Santema, SoDakLIberty, 2015.01.24

The immediate bottom line shows the Governor's proposal imposes half the tax burden of the committee's plan, $51 million versus $101 million, largely by leaving out the 3% wholesale fuel tax.

But remember, that's just in the first year. The above comparison does not note the increasing revenue that will come on the motor fuel tax line from Daugaard's proposed ongoing annual two-cent increase, which far outpaces the increase proposed by the interim committee. The 3% wholesale tax in the committee proposal may provide more revenue, if gasoline prices do what we'd expect and rise over time. But remember: after the 1986 oil price crash, gasoline prices remained remarkably flat through the 1990s. The wholesale tax doesn't guarantee more revenue; Daugaard's plan does.

Of course, as of this weekend, we still don't have the Governor's exact plan. The interim committee's plan was the first bill filed for the Senate; the Governor's plan has not yet been filed as a formal bill.

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I must give John Tsitrian kudos for catching Governor Dennis Daugaard in a brilliant contradiction. In Tuesday's Rapid City Journal, Governor Daugaard responds to a question about South Dakota's weak regulations on uranium mining by saying, "I don't like the notion that the state duplicates federal regulation. So, to the extent that the Atomic Energy Commission or the EPA is looking at this, I think we should let it run its course."

Tsitrian goes just seven months back and finds the Governor saying pretty much the opposite in a press release warning the feds off using the Clean Air Act to impose more regulations on power plants and calling the feds to recognize states as "co-regulators." Hee hee!

Further verbal chicanery lies in Daugaard's feigned preference for EPA regulations of uranium mining. His pal Senator Mike Rounds wants to eliminate the EPA; where would that leave our uranium mining regulations?

Inspired by Tsitrian to jump on the contradiction bandwagon, I scroll up through the Tuesday RCJ article and find another obvious whopper. Asked by RCJ's Meredith Colias about why he left education out of his State of the State Address and his funding priorities in favor of roads, Governor Daugaard dismissed complaints thus:

Bottom line is, you can’t spend money that you don’t have....

I try to give an increase to education every year … so I’m doing what I can with the resources available [Gov. Dennis Daugaard, interview with Meredith Colias, Rapid City Journal, 2015.01.20].

Um, Dennis? You don't have the money to fix the roads, either. You're proposing a plan that goes and gets more money (and still lets the roads get worse). Tell us again: why can you go get money that we don't have now for roads but not go get money that we don't have now for schools?

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The TIF campaign is on in Meade County. Meade County Taxpayers for Responsible Government gathered over 1,200 signatures (they needed 762) to refer the county's tax increment financing plan for a proposed bypass from the Buffalo Chip Campground to I-90 to a public vote on March 3. The referendum was fueled by a combination of opposition to the road itself and opposition to the funding mechanism, which grabs tax dollars that would otherwise be shared by the county and the school district.

A new website, www.Sturgis131.com, is up to promote a Yes vote in the March 3 referendum. The name comes from 131st Avenue, the name of the road before it was changed by a nicely participatory procedure to Fort Meade Way. The supporters don't say who they are, and they also don't make clear that the vote is about the TIF district designation, not about whether to build or pave Fort Meade Way.

The building and paving of Fort Meade Way does not depend on passage of the TIF. Meade County can still get the job done; it just might take longer through other funding mechanisms.

A bypass allowing quicker access to the Fort Meade VA, Sturgis Brown High School, and Bear Butte from Rapid City is a good idea for safety and economic development. A TIF district that deprives the school district of its fair share of benefits from new development is not. Meade County residents can support the road and still vote no on March 3.

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John Tsitrian suggest on The Constant Commoner that the competing road tax-and-fix proposals before the South Dakota Legislature may provoke an urban-rural civil war, or at least a constructive statewide conversation. I'm all about South Dakotans with diverse perspectives coming together to identify common interests, balance competing interests, and build practical solutions.

I'm not all about Americans for Prosperity butting into our Legislature and interfering with a practical discussion of real local problems with their ideological hogwash. The Koch brothers' lobbying group, a combination pro-corporate fascist front and jobs program for Republican lackeys, announces that it "will be engaging on the Highway Funding Bill."

What whit do the Koch brothers care about South Dakota's roads as they flit about in their private jets? Americans for Plutocracy Prosperity has no interest in fixing South Dakota's roads or solving any other South Dakota problem. Their immediate goal in "engaging" on South Dakota's highway funding will be to make sure their corporate pals pay as little as possible for the roads that make their businesses possible. They are probably among the "organizations" Governor Dennis Daugaard mentioned in his Tuesday press conference who have pushed him to water down the robust road-funding proposal produced by the interim Highway Needs and Financing committee, which spent months talking with experts on the practical condition of South Dakota roads.

The prosperity these Americans are for is their own, not yours and mine, and not South Dakota's. Their overarching goal is not good policy but no policy, no government or community power that can check their rapacious greed and exploitation.

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