Ellsworth’s B-21s expansion is ‘bigger than Citibank’ for South Dakota, lawmaker says

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Ellsworth

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The Legislature’s Executive Board should assign lawmakers to study future needs at Ellsworth Air Force Base in western South Dakota, state House members said Wednesday.

HCR 6017 won approval 52-17 and now heads to the Senate for consideration. Representative Jess Olson, a Rapid City Republican, sponsored it.

The resolution calls for four senators and five representatives to “study, review, and propose policy and legislative recommendations to address infrastructure and funding-support needs related to the expansion” of the base east of Rapid City, including housing, education, and roads.

The task force shall report to the Legislature and the governor before the beginning of the 2021 session. The base is preparing to serve new B-21 bombers.

Another Rapid City Republican, Senator Jessica Castleberry, is its lead Senate sponsor.

Olson said Ellsworth would be the first base in the nation to receive the B-21. She said there will be an increase of thousands of personnel and billions of dollars in economic effects.

Representative Tim Rounds, a Pierre Republican, said there’s already an informal work group planned. “I don’t know the need for this,” he said. He voted against it.

Representative Tim Goodwin, a Rapid City Republican, said there will be a training wing as part of the Ellsworth expansion.

“This is probably the biggest thing that’s happened to South Dakota, bigger than Citibank,” Goodwin said. “This is absolutely huge for the state.”

Representative Julie Frye-Mueller, a Rapid City Republican, said she hasn’t supported resolutions because she wants to see all the choices at the end of the 2020 session.

Representative Larry Zikmund, a Sioux Falls Republican, reminded House members there are House and Senate Military and Veteran Affairs committees.

Olson said she plans to involve those committees and the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriations. She said state government must show its support.

“This is the first step on that path,” Olson said.

House members also supported resolutions Wednesday seeking studies on mental health services, care of the disabled and elderly, and measurements of agricultural products.

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