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Mike Huether’s Budget Plan Appropriately Cautious But Lacks Vision [OPINION]

22nd Minnesota
Dan Peters/KSOO

We’ve known for a few years that lower prices in the agriculture economy has meant the South Dakota economy has slowed a bit. We were fortunate during some of the worst of the great recession that commodity prices in most cases were relatively good.

That reduced the affect on sales tax revenue from the broader economic struggle of the nation. It wasn’t great here, but it was better than most places.

That was particularly true in Sioux Falls, where our sales tax growth hit an astronomical 8 percent in 2014. That number was 1.6 percent in January.

Clearly, things have changed.

The mayor released his capital improvement budget this week. That’s the money we use to pay for construction and equipment and other hard costs. The general fund – technically the operating budget — is the other pot of cash, which pays for ongoing costs, such as salaries.

The construction plan released this week – which projects out five years — definitely reflected the reality of slowed growth.

The budget proposes $548 million in spending through 2022.

That’s about $40 million less than the five year plan from last year.

That’s a lot.

You can read the presentation slides here.

You can watch the whole thing here.

Everybody involved believes it’s time to be careful.

But I have concerns. It’s not with the caution, it’s in the vision.

When are we going to change? How long do we think we can just pave our way to the future? Smart urban planning starts now, when money is tight, so we can reduce the bills – or at least the growth – in the cost of driving.

The world is changing. Transportation is changing. The way we live is changing.

Surveys indicate that Millennials increasingly aren’t interested in driving.

Also, at some point, nobody will actually drive.

It’s time for Sioux Falls to recognize that and think about how we get around, what’s the best, most efficient way to travel in a city, rather than what’s the easiest.

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