Counties with jail woes had a rough day at the South Dakota Capitol
Bills would have sent $50 million, more taxation authority to counties
South Dakota counties pleading for help housing and transporting jail inmates are being snubbed by the state Legislature again in 2023.
After advancing through a pair of committees and the South Dakota Senate, the creation of a $50 million jail construction fund and additional taxing authority for counties stalled in the state House on Wednesday.
“It’s new spending that I suggest we don’t do,” House Majority Leader Will Mortenson said before his caucus overwhelmingly rejected Senate Bill 155. It would have set aside $40 million for a revolving loan fund for counties to build jails. It also called for another $10 million for a grant fund to help offset jail construction costs.
Mortenson and many of the 53 other representatives who voted SB 155 down objected to it based, in part, on fairness. Counties like Hughes, Minnehaha and Lincoln have already committed to investing in jails with their existing revenues — and without reliance on state tax dollars. Those jurisdictions would not likely use any new state-funded grants or loans, yet their taxpayers would still be footing a portion of the costs for the program.
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“The taxpayer in my district and many of yours are also (already) paying off some of these bonds. Now they’d have to pay off their own jail, and someone else’s as well,” Mortenson said. “I just find that to be unfair.”
Many of SB 155’s “no” voters did see merit in a separate bill aimed at providing relief to counties through new taxation, however.
Senate Bill 74 would have allowed counties to form regional jail authorities — governmental entities that would have allowed cash-strapped counties to finance jail construction and operation costs together. Right now, counties can partner with one another on jails, but they cannot conduct joint bonding or joint taxation.