South Dakota governor calls for Highway Patrol budget cuts

| 1/18/2008

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds told state lawmakers he wants to cut $2 million from the Highway Patrol budget.

Rounds made the announcement during his state of the state address that opened up the 2008 regular session. The governor cited the need to cut costs because the patrol is partly funded from fuel tax revenue, which has suffered in recent years because smaller amounts of fuel have been purchased due to higher prices.

The state’s highway trust fund helps pay for transportation work and law enforcement. The Highway Patrol gets $2 million annually from the fund, but because there is $80 million less in it now than three years ago, Rounds said the state cannot allot the patrol that money this year.

Critics said the proposal could adversely affect highway safety by reducing enforcement of drunken driving and speed limits and delaying response to emergencies.

The governor said public safety will not be compromised. He assured lawmakers his plan doesn’t include fewer officers.

Rounds said the agency can cope with the budget cut by putting off purchases of new vehicles and other equipment. He said the patrol also can reduce overtime by adjusting schedules and save fuel by spending less time driving and more time sitting alongside roads.

Delaying the purchase of patrol cars would save nearly $1.2 million, Rounds said in his address. Nearly $300,000 would be saved in fuel costs, $242,000 in overtime, and another $260,000 in other categories.

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– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor