- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s proposed $50 million funding hike for roads and bridges grew by nearly $2 million on Tuesday during its first committee hearing, where lawmakers began what is likely to be their most significant debate of the 2015 legislative session.

The House Transportation Committee on Tuesday approved changes to the governor’s plan, which raises transportation funding through a variety of tax and fee hikes. The governor’s director of policy and operations, Nathan Sanderson, said Daugaard’s proposal would fix the “imbalance” between current infrastructure financing and future needs.

“We’re underfunding these roads and bridges by tens of millions of dollars each year,” Sanderson said shortly before telling lawmakers to “resist the urge” to seriously tinker with the bill.

Daugaard’s original plan would raise about $41 million in state revenue through fuel tax increases and a motor vehicle excise tax hike. He also proposed ongoing increases in the fuel taxes to help ensure the state didn’t get backlogged again. The plan would raise nearly $10 million for local projects through vehicle registration fee increases.

Raising taxes requires two-thirds legislative support to pass.

“My aim with the bill that I brought forth was to try to keep the price tag low enough that it could obtain enough votes and still make a sizeable contribution to our need,” Daugaard said in an interview. “I thought that the number that I had identified was about the right sweet spot, but we’ll see.”

A separate committee is expected to review the proposal. Before adjourning, members voted to make the 2-cent annual fuel tax increases the governor proposed expire in 2030.

“I don’t like the idea of a perpetual annual increase,” said Republican Rep. Mary Duvall, who proposed the change.

They also added about $1.4 million in revenue for local infrastructure through additional vehicle fee increases.

The panel borrowed two provisions from a competing Senate plan that would raise more than $100 million in its first year. The House lawmakers added $400,000 in local revenue to Daugaard’s proposal by expanding the wheel tax and included a registration fee for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Sen. Mike Vehle chaired a committee that met before the session and recommended the roughly $100 million plan, which is scheduled to have a Senate hearing on Friday.

“We know where our roads are going,” Vehle told the House committee on Tuesday. “I urge you. We need to do something this year.”

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