Session 1 Week 9

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The 90th legislative session wrapped up its work around 10:30 pm Friday night. Now we enter a two week recess and wait and see if the Governor signs or vetoes the bills before him. Some have said that this was one of the more laid back sessions; some even described it as boring. As it was my first as a Representative and having observed past sessions I appreciated the pace and tone of the 90th session as many new legislators got their feet under them and found their voice. The civility and passion with which debates were argued showed that even though many legislators disagreed on a variety of issues, when the debate ended and the votes were cast everyone went back to being friends until the next debate where some who may have been allies on the previous bill were now arguing with each other. That’s the beauty of the South Dakota Legislature and its members. You send us to Pierre after we tell you our vision for South Dakota and what we stand for. We vigorously debate the issues and in the end we leave as friends.  The session ended with numerous conference committees, on many issues. One conference committee was of course SB 1: the highway funding bill. The end product will do the following:

  • Increase the motor vehicle excise tax from 3% to 4%
  • Increase the motor fuel tax by 6 cents one time
  • 20% increase in license plate fees
  • Increase license rate for noncommercial Ag trucks from 60% to 70% of the commercial rate
  • Increase the wheel tax from 4 to 12 wheels and from $4 to $5 if the county wants to.

The bill will also allow counties to assess up to $1.20 per $1,000 for highway purposes and townships may assess up to 50 cents per $1,000 for highway purposes.

And yes, the speed limit on Interstate will go up to 80 mph in areas to be determined by the DOT.

The Legislature has a tool available to them called an emergency clause. This allows a law to be enacted upon receiving the Governor’s signature instead of waiting till July 1st. By adding this clause the required number of votes to pass increases to 2/3 of the body. An emergency clause was added to the Highway funding bill because all tax increases already require a 2/3 majority vote to pass. This will make the increases go into effect on April 1st.

I voted for SB 1 but it wasn’t without much consternation and internal debate. As a conservative I firmly believe that taxes should be low. As we face a $10 million shortfall in revenue and a less-than-stellar financial outlook I’m not sure now was a good time to pass a large tax increase. The other side of this issue says it’s better to do something now than to put this tough decision off for future legislators to deal with. That is what has happened in the past and today we find ourselves in the situation we are in, and we do need a plan to protect the $14 billion assets of the state highway system. This bill also gets money to the county and township levels. I personally would have liked to see more for the counties and townships but the name of the game here is compromise. This is a large jump at one time for all these fees and taxes but even with such a large jump we will still have lower fees than our neighboring states. Many of the provisions in the bill are referable to the county and township level. Also, I like to decrease our state’s dependency on the Federal Government and this bill helps to do that as it means that South Dakotans will take care of South Dakota’s roads. Highway infrastructure is one of the few things that Government should do for the people and that is why I made the difficult vote for the increase.

This will be my last article for the session. Once again I am truly humbled to be your Representative and I appreciate all the support I’ve been shown. We may not agree on everything but I will always be respectful in our disagreements. I look forward now to being back home as spring is just around the corner and new life will begin to appear. I hope to meet with many of you at all the different events that will be held throughout the year and please let me know if I can be of service to you if you have any issues dealing with state government.

I would like to thank The Daily Republic for giving me the opportunity to report to you during the session.

Rep. Joshua Klumb