PIERRE | The South Dakota House on Tuesday passed a measure to allot $10 million to county roads as lawmakers decided how to spend $13 million of one-time spare change in the state budget.
The money is far from a done deal — the Senate would still need to approve the proposal. As the deadline to pass a budget looms on Thursday, Gov. Kristi Noem and lawmakers from the House and Senate are all bartering for their respective funding priorities.
"At this point in time, everyone has the cards on the table," said Rep. Caleb Finck, a Tripp Republican. "This is going to be a piece of that conversation."
Finck said the money would be valuable to cash-strapped counties recovering from last year's flooding. Lawmakers had been casting about this session for ways to help counties and townships repair washed out roads.
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The bill contains a funding formula that, among other factors like population and bridges, prioritizes counties with gravel roads. Farmers rely on those roads to transport their crops and livestock, said Finck.
The state's most populous counties would still get the bulk of funding under the formula.
Democrats opposed the bill, arguing the money was not enough to make a real difference and being used as a bargaining chip.
"It's a symbolic gesture," said House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, a Sioux Falls Democrat.
He also raised concerns that the allotment could jeopardize other budget priorities like funding for a School of Health Sciences at the University of South Dakota and college scholarships for students.
Rep. Spencer Gosch, a Glenham Republican, said the proposal could be reconsidered by the House as budget negotiations continue this week.
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