PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Republicans who control the state House resurrected legislation Tuesday afternoon that would put $10 million of one-time cash into a road improvement priority fund for South Dakota counties and townships to use on weather-damaged routes, bridges and culverts.
The 56-11 vote by the House for the latest version of SB 144 faces a reconsideration vote Wednesday before it heads to the Senate for possible agreement.
The previous version of SB 144 sought to save an estimated $1 million by charging high school students more for courses they take from state universities. But it failed Monday. Getting the bill revived Tuesday, so it could be changed into something very different, required a two-thirds majority of 47.
The voting board initially showed 46-21. Representative Larry Zikmund, a Sioux Falls Republican, spoke up: “I hit the wrong button.” His name went from red to green on the board.
After a heady debate that split along partisan lines, the final vote saw bill opponents’ names in red for all 10 Democrats who were present and Republican Scyller Borglum of Rapid City .
Republican Caleb Finck of Tripp brought the $10 million amendment. He had introduced another bill with a similar purpose of fixing damaged rural roads earlier in the session, but he gave it up when there didn’t seem to be money. He said Tuesday there is money now.
The move came one day after Republican Governor Kristi Noem had brought Senate and and House Republican leaders to a news conference to announce there was sufficient funding to provide 2% raises for school aid, community healthcare providers and state government employees, and to provide $3.5 million to start and operate a legalized hemp program.
The Legislative Research Council designed the formula that Finck used. He said $10 million could pay for two inches of new gravel on 1,400 miles of rural roads. He guaranteed that county officials would be thankful and implored House members to give “a thunderous yea.”
66 counties would share the $10 million, based on population, surface type and deck area of crossing structures. Amounts would range from as little as $38,919 for Buffalo and $40,777 for Douglas, up to $544,826 for Pennington and $843,019 for Minnehaha. Each county in turn would provide 5% of its funds to local township roads.
House Democratic leader Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls said afterward that the money could have been used instead for funding the need-based Dakota’s Promise scholarship for college students. He said lawmakers could have tapped the state’s reserve fund for one-time road aid.
Senator Brock Greenfield, a Clark Republican, was the original sponsor of 144. He wanted to prohibit high school students who failed at or withdrew from dual-credit courses from taking additional ones, but he didn’t want students to pay more for the dual-credit courses. Greenfield also had a funding bill for rural roads.
Here are counties that would get at least $100,000 under the current 144:
Bon Homme $191,465
Charles Mix $155,914
Fall River $131,442
Oglala Lakota $140,393