PIERRE — It’s been 14 years since the last ones passed, but don’t expect increases in South Dakota’s motor-fuels taxes during the 20 months remaining of Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s first term.
That’s what a member of the governor’s Cabinet told the state Transportation Commission during an impromptu discussion about highway funding Thursday.
Daugaard made a commitment during his 2010 election campaign that he wouldn’t raise taxes except for an emergency.
Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist said that hasn’t changed.
If the governor seeks a second term in 2014, he’ll take a second look at his position regarding the motor-fuels tax, and he’ll let that be publicly known before the election, Bergquist said.
“I don’t suspect he will make that call until next year. I don’t know what his decision will be,” Bergquist said.
South Dakota’s basic rate is 22 cents per gallon for regular unleaded and diesel used over the road. There is a 2-cent discount for 10 percent ethanol blend.
The 22 cents rate has been in place since 1999, when then-Sen. Mike Rounds, R-Pierre, sponsored the legislation raising it from 18 cents and then-Gov. Bill Janklow signed it into law.
Rounds later was elected governor in 2002 and saw various attempts by legislators fall short at increasing highway funding. Daugaard was Rounds’ lieutenant governor.
Whether a second term for Daugaard would bring a change of mind seems unlikely, based on a series of responses to a reporter’s questions later Thursday from his spokesman, Tony Venhuizen.
“The governor is willing to discuss the state’s transportation infrastructure needs, but he intends to keep the promise he made to the voters in 2010 that he would not raise taxes,” Venhuizen said.
“He hasn’t even announced that he’s running for a second term. He’s been pretty firm on controlling taxes and spending, and that’s unlikely to change,” Venhuizen added.
There was a final statement that perhaps summed it all up.
“The governor has never said that he would change his position on taxes,” Venhuizen said.
Two years ago, the Legislature approved a series of increases in license plate fees. The legislation, sponsored by then-Rep. Steve Street, D-Revillo, drew a veto from Daugaard trying to stop it.
But the House voted 53-16 to override that veto, and the Senate followed 30-4. The second round of increases take effect this July 1.