Friday, January 11, 2008

Silly South Dakota

South Dakota is slowing down its road-building for a silly reason: no money.

Here in Wisconsin, we don't let a little thing like that stand in our highway-building dreams. We just raise taxes and fees to a point that ensures more unregistered, unlicensed drivers on the road and we tell everyone that Congress will save us with more federal highway dollars.

From the Rapid City Journal:

PIERRE -- Revenue shortfalls, a shrunken reserve and inflated construction costs will slow road construction in South Dakota in the coming year, state Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist says.

Transportation Department income for fiscal 2008 will be about $27 million less than the department's projected spending, Berquist said Thursday at a joint meeting of the House and Senate transportation committees.

Fuel-tax revenues have mostly been flat in recent years, Bergquist says. (High prices can reduce revenues because fuel taxes are figured by the gallon.)

Vehicle excise taxes also remain flat.

One of the main reasons for the shortfall is the reduction of the state Highway Trust Fund from about $90 million to less than $13 million....

He also told lawmakers that a road-construction dollar today is only worth about half its 2003 value. A product called "asphalt binder" is up 53 percent, and "gravel cushion" is up 43 percent.

That means delaying some projects, though Bergquist couldn't say which ones. "We don't even know what our federal funding for 2008 will be," he said.

Federal funds pay for about 75 percent of South Dakota highway projects. "If we don't have federal funding, we have virtually no highway construction program in this state," Bergquist said....

The long-term outlook for federal funding is not good, either. Bergquist said the Federal Highway Trust Fund would be $5 billion in the hole by 2009. If Congress does nothing, he said, federal highway spending cold decrease by $28 billion in fiscal 2009, and South Dakota could lose about $100 million.

Bergquist said he believed Congress would solve the problem; South Dakota also faces another one. The state gets back more than $2 for every $1 it pays in federal fuel taxes. In contrast, large so-called "donor" states get back less than $1. Big states want to keep that money. One proposal would let them opt out of the federal highway program and keep all their federal gas-tax money.

"That really scares us," Bergquist said.

Pederson said he had attended meetings in Washington to discuss transportation funding. He argued that rural states like South Dakota were "connector states," with highways that link urban centers. States with low populations, like South Dakota, don't have the resources to build and maintain roads for traffic that is just passing through. But Pederson said, "You can't get them to understand that."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not surprised. South Dakota has always gon backwards when given a chance. They are 50th in everything and like it that way.