The 2015 Legislative Session convened at noon on Tuesday, January 13. I had previously taken the Oath of Office during Inauguration Day ceremonies on January 10. The first week of the 2015 Legislative Session was highlighted by the Governor’s State of the State address, the Chief Justice’s State of the Judiciary address, and organizational and informational meetings.
Governor Daugaard devoted most of his address to the need to take care of the state’s $14 billion road and bridge system. The main source of funding for the state highway system is the Federal Highway Trust Fund and the state gas tax. South Dakota’s fuel tax rate has been 22 cents per gallon since 1999. When compared with the increases in costs of maintenance and repair, that fuel tax is worth about 10.9 cents per gallon today. The county and township roads are funded primarily through license fees, property taxes, and the wheel tax. The state and local road system is underfunded by about $230 million per year, statewide. In addition, there are numerous county and township bridges that were built in the 1930s and 1940s that need major repair or replacement.
The summer interim committee, where I served as vice-chair, offered a proposal to generate about 40% of the amount needed to start addressing these transportation infrastructure needs. The governor offered a proposal to address about 20 percent of the amount needed, with the option for additional property taxes to bolster local road funding.
This promises to be one of the most contentious issues of the 2015 Session as legislators work to develop a fair, balanced proposal to fund infrastructure needs.
The governor also talked about three initiatives to enhance workforce development: The Build Dakota scholarship program, Career and Technical Education, and Dual Credit for high schools students who are taking college courses.
Both the Governor and the Chief Justice discussed Juvenile Justice Reform. South Dakota has the second-highest juvenile incarceration rate in the nation. Modeled after the adult public safety improvement act from two years ago, the Juvenile Justice Reform initiative would focus expensive residential placement on youth who pose a danger to the public, but would use proven alternatives for youth who commit lower level offenses. One example of such an alternative is the Teen Court program that is operating in Central South Dakota.
District 24 is well represented on both the House and Senate Transportation committees, with all three members serving on their respective Transportation Committee. I have been appointed as Vice-Chair of the House Transportation Committee, and Senator Jeff Monroe is vice-chair of Senate Transportation. I also serve on the House Taxation committee.
You may reach me at email@example.com or by calling the House Lobby at 773-3851.