May I offer a better solution to counties across the state, MAKE CUTS!

Here we go again, another (SIN) tax idea from Jeff Barth and the Minnehaha CC;

County commissioners across the state have favored the idea. Jeff Barth says it’s legislation Minnehaha County has unsuccessfully lobbied on for years.

“Although they have plenty of money for drinking, they don’t have plenty of money to pay for defense attorneys, prosecutors, prison, and jail,” Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth said.

Barth says more and more the financial burden of offenses, including alcohol, is falling on counties who see no benefit from existing drink taxes. He believes any amount would ease the county coffers.

“Right now we’re looking at putting two additional floors on our county jail at a cost of $10 million and grandma isn’t drinking and driving. We’re going to make her pay,” Barth said.

While I am not entirely opposed to his idea, I often wonder when the county is in a financial bind they want to raise taxes without looking for cuts. Their lack of creativity is frustrating. They say everyone should pay more on alcohol taxes, even responsible drinkers. Well guess what? Why should I have to pay more in taxes because someone is irresponsible with alcohol? Good drivers get discounts on their car insurance, irresponsible drivers do not. It’s like telling people who drink in moderation and responsibly they need to pay for the ones that don’t. It’s not a fair form of taxation. If someone breaks the law and is irresponsible, you fine them. If they need more money for convictions and jails, they need to raise the fines, substantially, not taxes.

Other solutions;

1) While they have lobbied for years to get a bigger cut of state taxes, they need to lobby harder and demand a fair share. I will agree with them on this point, they are getting the shaft when it comes to sharing the tax revenue in our state.

2) Stop putting non-violent offenders in jail, fine them, bracelet them, garnish their wages, make them pay for rehab, court costs, attorneys, etc. but for god’s sake stop jailing them, it is a waste of taxpayer money. Jail is NOT rehabilitation and never will be. If you want to stop these people from becoming repeat offenders, offer them rehabilitation and hit them in the wallet.

3) Have a say in the TIF process with the city. While the city is handing out TIF’s like candy to already wealthy developers they are raising our property taxes on ‘grandmas’. If I can’t get a TIF to improve my home, developers shouldn’t get them either. I say put a stop to them altogether, they are literally draining millions of dollars from the property tax rolls every year, and developers are literally ‘cashing in’ on them.

4) Make cuts to unneeded programs, this is what responsible leaders do in a money pinch. I still remember shortly after the property tax opt-out was approved, the first thing the CC did was hand themselves a raise. This was one of the most irresponsible things I have ever seen a commission do.

I am sure there is about a 100 other ways to make cuts and improve tax revenue, but please stop running to the media every time you have a cost increase you need to alleviate. It lacks vision and quite frankly is fiscally irresponsible.


#1 grudznick on 08.05.13 at 7:19 pm

Mr. E, for a talented painter fellow with maybe some liberal tendencies you show a lot of common sense with a number of ideas that I could get behind.

#2 LJL on 08.05.13 at 7:43 pm

Drunk driving has never been curbed by stiffer laws and it has shifted the financial burden onto the municipalities. I know driving drunk kills people and I don’t think people should. We now force people to spend public resources to lessen the punishment. And if you take a serious look at the law we expect people to know what their metabolism is on a hour by hour basis. I could drink 2 in 1 hour today and be fine, but drunk on 2 beers tomorrow.

How about this: Punish drunk driving on a sliding scale.
.06 will be a $250 if you plead guilty-Class 4 misdemeanor
.08 will be $1000 if you plead guilty-Class 4 misdemeanor
.10 will be will be $5000 and a loss of license for 2 months if you plead guilty – Class 1 misdemeanor
.12 and above will be treated as a felony

Just saying.

#3 MJL on 08.05.13 at 10:28 pm

But what about counties like Bennet County? Daugaard likes to talk about local control, but fights it at every level.

#4 Scott on 08.05.13 at 10:58 pm

Exactly, LJL! There is a huge difference between a borderline DUI and these idiots at double or triple that cause the fatalities.

#5 Tom H. on 08.06.13 at 7:24 am

I especially like #2 and #3 – good ideas.

@LJL – I like the idea, but I would add license suspension at all levels, like:

.06 – 1 month license suspension
.08 – 3 month
.10 – 6 month
.12 – 2 years

#6 LJL on 08.06.13 at 8:58 am

The problem with that Tom is many people loose their jobs if they lose their license. That is where the legal battles begin and the cost to prosecute the offender adds up. I know in my business, we cannot hire or keep employing a person with a DWI offense. We have no choice whether it is a .08 or a .20 BAC.

The thought behind the idea is to collect fees from those with lower BAC levels which have never been proven to deter drunk drivers and use these fees to fully prosecute those who knowing broke the DWI law.

#7 Detroit Lewis on 08.06.13 at 9:01 am

I had a friend who got a DUI in Georgia, first offense. She was more then a couple points over the legal limit. I can’t remember all the fines etc, but for 1st offense I think she told me she spent over $4000 all together. She had to go to classes and I think she got her license suspended for 30 days. I don’t think the DUI laws in SD are not stiff enough, but I do think the penalties are very weak and need to be risen.

#8 Craig on 08.06.13 at 9:22 am

One of the major issues with fines for drunk driving is that the people who are most commonly found driving drunk don’t have the money to pay the fine. So what are you supposed to do… charge a late fee on a fine they can’t even pay?

The same fact applies when people suggest we take their cars from them after the second or third offense and sell them at auction. The only problem is most of the time the cars aren’t worth anything (you can’t exactly make any money selling a rusted out 1987 Ford Tempo), or if they are worth anything they have loans on them so the bank is the one who ends up getting hurt by this proposal.

This leaves us right back where we are today. We have all of these costs centered around drunk driving and no reasonable way to tie those costs to the people driving drunk. Thus we have to shift the burden to the remainder of the taxpayers.

That said, I’m more than willing to pay a bit more in taxes to keep these people off our streets. I do agree however that we need to do a much better job on repeat offenders. No more of this wrist slapping stuff… if they have shown they have no interest in stopping the behavior and if treatment programs don’t work then I see no reason to allow them to drive a vehicle – period. Second DUI offense should be two or three years without a license, mandated double insurance rates when they can drive again, and some type of 24 hour monitoring that requires them to be tested for alcohol several times a day.

Yes I know the chronic drunk drivers will drive even without a license, and even if we can’t always address 100% of the problem we surely could do better than we are now.

I have a feeling that eventually the real solution to this issue will come in the form of self-driving cars similar to the Google cars. I don’t think we can ever address the human nature component until we take the human out of control of the vehicle.

#9 Tom H. on 08.06.13 at 10:32 am

OR, a real walkable urban city where owning/driving a car is not a prerequisite to being a productive citizen.

#10 rufusx on 08.06.13 at 12:47 pm

Require the insertion of a currently valid DL with current insurance as a “key” in all cars. Only then will any license suspension scheme have any teeth.

You could even program them to be useable ONLY in cars they are authorized to be used in – Identity matching. The technology is NOT that complicated.

#11 rufusx on 08.06.13 at 12:48 pm

Tom, you and I both know you need to eave the US in order to even have that idea seriously considered at a national level.

#12 Tom H. on 08.06.13 at 2:57 pm

@rufusx – Yeah, you’re probably right. But you don’t need to leave North America! Canada has their act together much better than we do when it comes to urban planning.

In fact, there are many cities in Canada that are downright European in their styles. My personal favorite is Quebec City.