- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A measure that would have offered tax incentives to put in buffer strips between cropland and waterways in South Dakota will remain dead after its backers failed Tuesday to muster enough support to override Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s veto of the bill.

House lawmakers didn’t reach the two-thirds threshold necessary to overcome the Republican governor’s rejection of the bill. The Senate had voted 32-1 earlier during the final day of the 2016 legislative session to supersede the veto.

The buffer strip bill originally passed unanimously in the Senate and with relatively few dissenting votes in the House.

“I was surprised,” said Democratic House leader Spencer Hawley, a main sponsor of the bill. “I hope we can have this discussion again.”

The bill would have allowed farmland along a lake, river or stream that was turned into a 50-foot buffer strip of vegetation to be classified as non-cropland for property tax purposes. That would have meant a lower tax burden for those landowners.

It would have given landowners a break for doing something to help with South Dakota’s water quality issues, said Barry Berg, with the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts.

Buffers help trap fertilizers, pesticides and sediments before they reach a waterway. Supporters have said the measure would have complemented existing conservation programs.

In his veto message, Daugaard expressed concern that the measure would shift the tax burden to other property owners. Improving water quality is laudable, but the bill represents bad tax policy, Daugaard said.

Some House lawmakers also pushed back against the measure.

“This is landowners’ rights. If the landowner wants to farm up to the crick, he can farm up to the crick, creek, whatever you want to call it,” said Republican Rep. Justin Cronin, who opposed the bill. “This is way too much, way too fast.”

House lawmakers also declined to override Daugaard’s veto of a bill that would have made broadband projects eligible for a state economic development program.

Daugaard wrote in his veto message that the telecommunications industry has invested heavily in the state already, saying he doesn’t think measure is necessary for the investments to continue.

Lawmakers should revisit incentives next session for such projects because broadband access is “critical” for business to happen, Senate Majority Leader Corey Brown said.

The 2016 session began on Jan. 12. State lawmakers passed bills including a half-cent sales tax increase to help boost South Dakota’s lowest-in-the-nation pay for teachers, and approved a nearly $4.6 billion state budget.

“I appreciate legislators’ thorough consideration of today’s bills and all of their work this legislative session,” Daugaard said in a statement. “Our legislators are truly servant leaders. In nine short weeks they have grappled with some of the most important issues facing South Dakota.”

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