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Daugaard Supports Raising More Money for Roads… But Not Vehle Bill

Last November, Tony Venhuizen told us that 2014 was Dennis Daugaard's last election. The Governor now confirms that statement, in not so many words, by announcing that he will support raising taxes to fix South Dakota's roads and bridges:

During his 15-minute inaugural address, Daugaard promised more of the frugality that led to eliminating state government’s structural deficit and improved bond ratings during his first term.

During his 15-minute inaugural address, Daugaard promised more of the frugality that led to eliminating state government’s structural deficit and improved bond ratings during his first term.

But he also pledged he wouldn’t be cheap and he will “seize opportunities in the short term where it can lead to savings, or efficiencies, or better government in the long term.”

The first example came immediately after the ceremony. He told news reporters a priority in the legislative session would be raising more money for roads and bridges.

He said too much maintenance was deferred in the past, such as buildings at the state Human Services Center in Yankton.

“We need to confront decisions like that — and make them, right or wrong,” Daugaard said [Bob Mercer, "Dennis Daugaard Begins Second Term as South Dakota's Governor," Aberdeen American News, 2015.01.11].

As he did with the structural deficit four years ago, Governor Daugaard finds himself in a hole dug by his smiling predecessor Marion Michael Rounds, who let roads and bridges crumble while praying at the altar of corporate welfare. Rounds wouldn't support fixing roads, since there was no way to do that without raising big taxes, and he had his eye on running for Senate when he was done in the big chair in Pierre. Evidently with his last election behind him, Daugaard feels he can throw his weight behind some hard, practical investments.

Alas, the Governor's approach shows another problem with one-party rule in Pierre. Bob Mercer reports that instead of backing the comprehensive road funding package created by Senator Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell) and his diligent Highway Needs and Financing interim committee, the Governor will demand having things his way:

That means however the interim transportation committee’s road-and-bridge legislation, Senate Bill 1, likely is dead on arrival. It’s a sweeping plan that would raise every conceivable fee and tax affecting motor vehicles that travel state highways in some fashion at some point. Naturally something so broad would have broad opposition. Vehle wanted everybody to be in the boat. Look for a bill from the governor that would be trimmer and that he — Daugaard — could put his clout behind in the first year of his second and final term [Bob Mercer, "Governor Gets Aboard on Road and Bridge Funding," Pure Pierre Politics, 2015.01.11].

Politics aside, the Governor is talking sense:

This is a big change from Gov. Daugaard regarding taxes and fees, but as he took care to explain in roundabout fashion in his inaugural speech Saturday and much more directly in his remarks afterward to reporters, sometimes more money in the short term is needed to save money in the long run. That perspective is consistent with much of what he did in his first term and is proposing in other areas of his latest budget proposal [Mercer, "Governor Gets Aboard...," 2015.01.11].

Invest now, save later—why is that clear only to politicians who aren't running for re-election?


  1. larry kurtz 2015.01.11

    How gratifying that a GOP governor has learned so much by following me on twitter.

  2. Disgusted Dakotan 2015.01.11

    Our Chicago Lawyer In-Chief has done a great job of selling himself. His last budget was a deficit budget and violated SD's Constitutional Amendment requiring a balanced budget.

    The last 3 of his budgets expanded state government and increased spending while raising numerous fees (taxes). He did all of this while pretending to be a government cutting conservative.

    The reason why he gets away with this double standard, is because our friends on the Left are okay with increasing govt/spending. Thus, Dennis Daugaard gets his cake and eats it too.

  3. 96Tears 2015.01.11

    Fixing roads and bridges in South Dakota will produce a lot more jobs than the Keystone XL Pipeline in South Dakota. Gee, DD, you can take credit for all those jobs!

  4. Owen 2015.01.11

    "Invest now, save later—why is that clear only to politicians who aren't running for re-election?"

    DD's post explains the above quote Cory. That's why Daugaard didn't do it before and of course it's the Liberals fault

  5. barry freed 2015.01.11

    Bob Mercer is mistaken about the fees affecting vehicles that travel the roads.
    Commercial vehicles did not see an increase in license fees these past few years, only passenger vehicles did.

  6. jerry 2015.01.11

    Daugaard follows the same kind of pattern as always. He is now suddenly for fixing roads and actually governing, but now it is the legislature that has thrown the monkey wrench into the works. A republican dominated legislature that are his own choices suddenly going against him? please, my leg does not need pulling. Daugaard was just tossing bull puckey into the air with no intention of doing anything further. If taxes are raised, they will go into the rainy day slush fund that Daugaard claims as his.

  7. Greg 2015.01.11

    The time is now to fix and maintain roads. Raising license fee's are really not fair to the people who do not drive many miles. The fair way to increase revenue is to raise gas taxes, the more you drive the more you pay. The DOT needs to get more aggressive in keeping overload tucks off our roads. In past years we would see Carrier Enforcement on the roads but hardly ever now. We need to heavily fine violators.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.11

    Greg, will Governor Daugaard come up with a more fair (progressive?) way to raise revenues for this investment?

  9. John 2015.01.11

    If any dem signs onto the largest tax increase in SD history there will be hell to pay.

  10. Greg 2015.01.11

    Cory, that is a very good question. It seems like everyone knows what needs to be done but lawmakers are afraid of the political fallout so they seldom get the job done. Maintaining roads should not be a political issue nor should education funding etc.

  11. Les 2015.01.11

    Every poor sob resident who drives our roads got hit more than any commercial, ag or non resident. Keep hittin gramma, she's got all the cash!

  12. Tim 2015.01.11

    John, if you want something beside washboard gravel to drive on, it has to be paid for. Fuel tax increase is the fairest way to pay for it, people who drive pays.

  13. Lanny V Stricherz 2015.01.11

    As it stands right now, doubling the gas tax would bring the price at the pump in Sioux Falls to 2.01 a gallon. Gosh, I doubt that our state government could possibly take this opportunity with the price of gas so cheap as compared to historical pricing of the last five years and do something that should have been done a long time ago.

  14. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.01.11

    As Lanny says, now is the time. SD is not the only state taking advantage of low fuel prices to make tax increases seem smaller. MN is one of several poised to do the same. Infrastructure sucks everywhere.

    I wonder what it would take for the Republican Congress to contribute to the infrastructure cause? Somehow I can't see Lindsey and Boner doing something so constructive. (Get it? "Construct?" See what I did there?)

  15. Steve Sibson 2015.01.12

    Lanny & Deb, so if prices go back up, we will reduce the tax?

  16. Lanny V Stricherz 2015.01.12

    Mr Sibson, What would be the point of that? The whole idea of raising the taxes is so that those using the roads can pay for fixing maintaining and plowing them, instead of taking out of the general fund to do so. SInce there never seems to be any compunction to raise the taxes when the price is high, do it when the price is low so that consumers won't be so upset.

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