DOT staff will write grant application for railroad

Jack Parliament, who runs the L.G. Everist family’s D and I Railroad based in Dell Rapids, made a point Wednesday to state government’s Railroad Board.

Parliament said the state Department of Transportation completed the applications for federal TIGER grants on the state-owned line west of Mitchell. Dakota Southern Railway operates on the line.

Parliament wanted the same treatment — and ultimately received it — for D and I on its application for a grant from the federal program.

“That’s where I’m coming from,” he told the board.

Parliament is trying to pull together funding to either rebuild or rehabilitate a bridge known as T480 between Canton and Elk Point on the state line in southeastern South Dakota.

State board members eventually chose a two-pronged strategy.

They directed DOT to work with the D and I Railroad on preparing and submitting the INFRA application to replace the bridge. The deadline is Nov. 2.

And they told Parliament to seek a third estimate from another railroad engineering firm on the cost to rehabilitate the bridge.

Parliament previously served on the board.

“If you get three different ones, at least you can average them,” board member Harlan Quenzer of Mitchell said.

Trump regains a few points of approval

The latest Morning Consult / Political survey of US voters showed President Trump rebounded a bit in his approval rating.

The poll of 1,997 voters Aug. 10-14 found 44 percent approval and 52 percent disapproval. The previous poll indicated Trump at a low point of 40 percent approval and 55 percent disapproval.

Other findings of interest from the Aug. 10-14 survey:

More Republicans thought Trump’s Twitter attacks on US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell would hurt chances for Republicans to pass their agenda in Congress. The numbers were 35 percent of Republicans saying it would hurt and 26 percent of Republicans saying the tweets would help;

More Republicans see Trump as more knowledgeable than McConnell on policy issues, with Trump at 41 percent and McConnell at 34 percent;

Overall 47 percent of voters said they support air strikes against North Korea and 30 percent supported sending ground troops to North Korea; and

68 percent of Democrats in the survey said Trump wasn’t working on his recent vacation while 67 percent of Republicans said he was working.

One month in, here are state’s revenues

South Dakota’s state government fell short, and then shorter yet, on its revenue targets in fiscal 2017 that ended June 30. So we took note today of the revenues for July, the first month of the 2018 fiscal year.

The good:

Sales and use tax was estimated by legislators in February to be $89.8 million for July. The actual amount for July was $93.1 million. That was $3.3 million above estimate.

Lottery was estimated by legislators in February to be $8.4 million in July. The actual amount for July was $8.6 million. That was about $200,000 above estimate.

Charges for goods and services were estimated by legislators in February to be nearly $869,000. The actual amount for July was just above $1 million. That was about $143,000 above estimate.

Severance taxes for precious metals such as gold and silver were estimated by legislators in February to be about $419,000 in July. The actual amount for July was $1.1 million. That was about $681,000 above estimate.

The 2 percent wholesale tax on alcoholic beverages was estimated by legislators in February to be just over $167,000 in July. The actual amount for July was nearly $201,500. That was about $34,000 above estimate.

The not-so-good:

The contractor’s excise tax of 2 percent was estimated by legislators in February to be about $10.7 million in July. The actual amount for July was about $10.2 million. That was about $466,000 less than the estimate.

The insurance company tax was estimated by legislators in February to be about $16.9 million in July. The actual amount in July was about $14.9 million. That was nearly $2 million less than the estimate.

Unclaimed property was estimated by legislators in February to be more than $800,000 in the hole in July. The actual amount in July was $2.1 million in the hole. That was nearly $1.3 million less than the estimate.

Tobacco taxes were estimated by legislators in February to be about $6.1 million in July. The actual amount in July was about $5.8 million. That was about $300,000 less than the estimate.

Bank franchise taxes were estimated by legislators in February to be about $15,000 in July. The actual amount in July was nearly $460,000 in the hole. That was about $475,000 less than the estimate. However, a footnote said the red ink for bank-franchise taxes resulted from an accounting error that would be corrected as part of August revenue.

Other revenues came in roughly as the Legislature expected.

The bottom line was the Legislature estimated July ongoing revenue at $165.6 million and actual July ongoing revenue was just over $165.7 million. That was about $120,000 more than legislators estimated.

The good news is state government didn’t miss. You can read the numbers here.

DOT releases total traffic count for Sturgis rally

The 2017 motorcycle rally and races at Sturgis ended Sunday. Bikers basically came earlier and left earlier this year in comparison to 2016.

Here’s the news release from the South Dakota Department of Transportation on the daily numbers:

STURGIS, S.D. – Traffic counts from the South Dakota Department of Transportation show an average number of vehicles entering Sturgis for the 77th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally Aug. 4-13, 2017.

Traffic counts at nine locations entering Sturgis for the 2017 Rally are as follows:

Friday, Aug. 4: 48,489 – up 11.3% from Friday last year
Saturday, Aug. 5: 54,254 – up 9.0% from Saturday last year
Sunday, Aug. 6: 54,425 – up 1.8% from Sunday last year
Monday, Aug. 7: 58,669 – up 3.7% from Monday last year
Tuesday, Aug. 8: 55,382 – down 1.4% from Tuesday last year
Wednesday, Aug. 9: 54,428 – up 3.8% from Wednesday last year
Thursday, Aug. 10: 50,479 – up 5.4% from Thursday last year
Friday, Aug. 11: 41,003 – down 8.9% from Friday last year
Saturday, Aug. 12: 34,255 – down 10.0% from Saturday last year
Sunday, Aug. 13: 17,812 – down 15.3% from Sunday last year

10 Day Total: 2017: 469,103   2016: 463,941   Up 1.1% overall

Once compiled, a full report will be available on the SDDOT website at: http://www.sddot.com/transportation/highways/traffic/Default.aspx

Democrats draw no-cross line for bank regs

Curt Everson, president for the South Dakota Bankers Association, raises an interesting point in his column in the July 2017 issue of the SDBA magazine.

Everson said bankers haven’t been able to find any takers among Democrats in the U.S. Senate regarding the CHOICE Act that cleared the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House vote broke along party lines. Of those who voted, it received near-total support from Republicans (there was one nay) and total opposition from Democrats.

CHOICE proposes major changes that would relax or remove many of the Dodd Frank regulations that Congress put into place for banks during the Great Recession last decade.

Everson said the leaders for the Senate committee that would consider CHOICE has its own ideas about what should happen regarding the Dodd Frank regulations.

“Fair enough. But in this writer’s view, the option of doing nothing is not acceptable,” Everson wrote.

He goes on to point out that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, is circulating an act that would relax home-mortgage regulations — but only for banks smaller than $10 billion in assets.

Everson said Great Western Bank, whose state charter is based in South Dakota, has assets of $11 billion.

“They happen to be the only bank with a physical presence in the South Dakota communities of Colman, Crooks, McIntosh, Morristown and Rosholt,” Everson said.

He asks why Great Western’s customers in those communities shouldn’t have the same access to qualified mortgages as customers of banks with less than $10 billion of assets in neighboring communities.

“If not, then I think some folks in Congress need to explain why not,” Everson concluded.

Antelope hunters had 70 percent success

State government’s Department of Game, Fish and Parks issued 3,328 tags for South Dakota’s 2016 general firearms season for antelope. Hunters harvested 2,112 bucks and 350 does and fawns.

That total of 2,461 was notable for two reasons. It was the highest harvest rate in at least five years at 70 percent. It also was the second-largest number of antelope taken in at least five years, trailing only the 2,637 taken in 2012.

GFP issued the largest number of tags for the past five years — 4,936 — in 2012, for a success rate of 53 percent. The department issued 4,006 tags in 2013 and had the lowest harvest rate of 48 percent during the five-year stretch.

The 3,052 tags issued in 2014 was the smallest in the past five years, with a harvest rate of 66 percent. The department issued 3,322 tags for 2015 and saw a harvest rate of 64 percent.

The 2017 season opens Sept. 30 and runs through Oct. 15.

Lottery is filling Thompson’s post

The resignation this summer by Kelly Thompson means Wade Laroche, public affairs manager for state government’s Department of Revenue, is filling in as spokesman for the South Dakota Lottery.

In July Thompson accepted a new position as a senior secretary for the Legislative Research Council. The new job pays $35,457.99.

She was the lottery’s director of advertising and public relations since 2009. She began as special projects director for Revenue in 1997. Two years ago, she had a stem-cell transplant as part of her battle with cancer.

Laroche said Monday (today) that he is temporarily handling some of her job duties at the lottery while the lottery division looks to fill the spot. He said he’ll be attending the lottery commission’s meetings during the interim. He is paid $22.06 per hour.

Jody Bottum reviews ‘The Darkening Web’

Well-written review by Jody Bottum of The Darkening Web by Alexander Klimburg. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

The Darkening Web asks us to distinguish three different species of computer attacks. The first is the genuinely and immediately violent: the cyber equivalent of actual war in which we hack a system to turn off automated defenses or cause a dam or a power grid to fail. The 2015 Russian assault on the Ukranian electrical system makes for a clear example.

The second form of computerized attack is the hack for information—loudly announced when done for political effect, but often kept quiet as secret spy work. The phishing attack that cracked the Democratic party’s email servers during the 2016 presidential race is an obvious case of an attack in search of embarrassing or sensitive information.

Finally, there is the role of propaganda through the internet, in the form of pushing fake news or the form of restricting disfavored speech. Russia dominates recent press accounts about the first form, but China is the master of the second. Under pressure from Beijing, Apple recently removed from its app store hundreds of apps for its Chinese customers, including the app for the New York Times. The list of words banned by China for social media runs for pages.

Bottum starts this fall as a fall as a faculty member at Dakota State University in Madison.

Annual report shows South Dakota labor conditions

State government’s Department of Labor and Regulation has issued its 2016 analysis of employment and wage data by industry. There is a two-page summary that shows:

Workers covered by unemployment insurance increased 1.1 percent to 420,466;

Within that group, average annual pay rose 2.5 percent to $41,168;

Workers in the construction sector who were covered by unemployment insurance saw their average annual pay rise the most, at 6 percent;

Workers in the leisure and hospitality services sector had the lowest average annual pay at $16,053; and

Workers in the financial activities sector had the highest average annual pay at $55,399.