$50 annual fee for electric vehicles in South Dakota has rounded third and is heading home

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A state lawmaker explained Wednesday how he settled on the amount he’s proposing that owners of electric vehicles pay each year in South Dakota. Representative Mark Willadsen said $50 was how much two of the opponents who killed similar legislation in the past said they could accept this time.

The Sioux Falls Republican told his story Wednesday to the Senate Transportation Committee, whose members voted 6-1 to recommend the full Senate pass HB 1053. The Senate’s debate could come as early as Thursday afternoon. If there isn’t an amendment, Senate passage would be final legislative approval. The House on February 2 approved charging the annual $50 fee, 50 to 18.

The money would be added to the rest of the mix in state government’s highway fund.

“As our times are changing, and technology is advancing, we’re dealing with an antique method of paying for our roads, bridges and the maintenance therefore,” Willadsen said. “The point is, is that we need to get started with it, because technology’s not going to slow down.”

Similar legislation failed at least twice in previous years. State records showed 162 electric vehicles were registered in South Dakota during 2020.

“Well, at 162 vehicles, we’re not going to do a lot of financing of our roads and bridges — and that’s kind of my point, because we need to get started at the front end and have a system in place,” Willadsen said.

No one testified against his plan Wednesday. Instead only positive comments flowed through the witness table’s microphone.

Deb Mortenson, representing the Associated General Contractors of South Dakota, said electric-vehicle fees almost became part of South Dakota’s funding six years ago.

“When we passed the highway bill in 2015, originally we had included taxation on electric vehicles. But as we got down to the last moments of debate on that bill, it threatened to bog down the works, so we had to leave it by the side of the road then,” she said. “So it’s more than appropriate we pick it up at this point.”

The 2021 version has support from the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s David Owen. “This bill just makes sense, which I know can be the kiss of death around this place, but don’t let it be in this case,” he said.

Myron Rau, who runs the South Dakota Auto Dealers, talked about what’s coming. “If you do any reading, you find that Volvo is going all electric. Cadillac’s going all electric. General Motors says by 2035 they’re going to produce nothing but electric. This is a way to start it,” he said.

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