State aeronautics panel cuts aid to S.D. airports

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Pierre Capitol building legislature

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — State government’s Aeronautics Commission pulled back the rudder on funding for South Dakota public airports Tuesday.

Commission members won’t help fund hangars or fuel systems at airports that are intended to produce revenue.

That starts immediately.

The commission also cut the state’s share to 3.5 percent for airport improvement projects wanting federal grants in 2021 and after.

The state share on those currently is 5 percent. Local sponsors have been paying 5 percent, while the Federal Aviation Administration grants 90 percent.

South Dakota’s 2019 federal-backed projects totaled about $39 million.

Chairman Eric Odenbach of Eureka said the state’s cuts might spark “an outcry” from municipal officials to state legislators.

The state commission has tried for years to get $3 million returned that lawmakers swept from the aeronautics fund in a budget shortfall long ago.

Several commission members and top state Department of Transportation staff met about it with Herb Jones, chief of staff for Governor Kristi Noem.

Transportation Deputy Secretary Joel Jundt presented options Tuesday. The commission stayed with a flat reduction rather than switching to various percentages for different project features.

Commissioner Dave Luers of Pierre said a letter should be sent explaining the reasons for the changes. Commissioners will look at a draft at their October 22 meeting.

Jundt said the aeronautics fund would crash in 2026 if the commission stayed on its current financial descent.

“We talk about this all the time. We need to take some action,” Odenbach said.

“It was two (governors’) administrations ago,” Luers said. “It’s not fresh in the minds of lawmakers what happened, or why.”

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