South Dakota bills would create more money for highways

| 1/26/2009

Multiple measures offered for consideration in the South Dakota Legislature are intended to help ease a shortage of available dollars for the state’s highway trust fund. The fund pays for roadwork and the state Highway Patrol.

Gov. Mike Rounds submitted a plan to support the Highway Patrol by increasing certain fees on cars and trucks. The governor’s proposal – SB32 – would use the additional revenue to reduce the amount of state general funds that are now paying for operations of the Highway Patrol and for driver licensing and vehicle licensing services.

Among the changes included in the bill would be the fee for commercial driver’s licenses and renewals. The fee would increase from $15 to $25. Each CDL endorsement knowledge test would cost $10 – up from $5. The cost for duplicate licenses, name changes, or address changes would be raised from $6 to $10.

Fees are routed into the state motor vehicle fund.

The fee for personal driver’s licenses and renewals also would be increased from $8 to $20. Out of every fee for personal driver’s licenses and renewals $5 would be routed to the Highway Patrol. The rest of the money would continue to be deposited into the state motor vehicle fund.

The Highway Patrol also would benefit from a separate provision in the bill that would add $1 to the fee on commercial and noncommercial vehicles registered in South Dakota. About 1.7 million motor vehicles are registered in the state, The Aberdeen American News reported.

SB32 is in the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

Confronted with a potential $90 million shortfall for highway needs in 2009, legislators are pursuing other measures to trim the funding gap.

Another bill would increase certain license fees for noncommercial vehicles by $10. Vehicles weighing 2,000 pounds or less would pay $40; vehicles between 2,001 and 4,000 pounds would pay $52; vehicles between 4,001 and 6,000 pounds would pay $65; and vehicles weighing in excess of 6,000 pounds would pay $75.

Separate fee increases also would apply for motor homes.

The bill – HB1007 – is in the House Transportation Committee.

A separate bill – SB11 – that is awaiting assignment to committee would eliminate the discount of motor vehicle license fees for certain older vehicles. State law now allows commercial motor vehicles that are at least 5 years old on Jan. 1 of the year for which a license fee is required to pay 90 percent of the fee ordinarily imposed. The discount for noncommercial vehicles is 70 percent.

Advocates say that eliminating the discount would give the state another $12 million annually. The money could be used by counties for road projects, they say.

Critics say drivers already put a lot of money into roads in the state through other taxes and fees. Instead, they say the state should make better use of its existing funds.

That sentiment is the idea behind another bill that would create the Highway Finance Task Force to study long-term highway needs. The panel also would be responsible for studying reforms to the method of financing highways in the state.

The House Transportation Committee voted unanimously to advance the bill – HB1006 – to the House floor.

To view other legislative activities of interest for South Dakota in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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