Is anyone else catching the story on how the Sioux Falls Development Foundation wants the city to impose a massive rental vehicle tax of $3 per vehicle for their own preferred projects?
Pitched by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation (SFDF), the tax would generate an estimated $1 million each year to aid economic development and pay for infrastructure improvements ahead of new businesses moving to town. Backers of the new tax say rental car taxes are commonplace throughout the country, and an analysis of 23 regional cities indicate all but three have a similar tax.
Dan Letellier, executive director at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport, said the airport has deliberately put off imposing its own rental car charges until future needs like improving existing airport facilities such as parking and the rental car kiosk area becomes more immediate. If and when that happens, It will be a tougher pill to swallow if a $3 daily charge to all car rentals is already in place, he said.
The majority of local car rentals occur out of the rental car kiosks at the airport, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Sioux Falls Regional Airport Authority. Because the Sioux Falls Regional Airport Authority operates as an independent governing body, Letellier also questioned whether the city and its voters could legally force those businesses to collect the $3 daily charge.
“We’re concerned about the legality of one municipality – the city of Sioux Falls – being able to impose a tax on revenue generated from another government agency, which is the airport authority,” he said.
Why is this group trying to accelerate the imposition of a fee that the Airport authority has the authority to collect? Well, as noted, it’s because they want the money for their own purposes, as opposed to the airport authority spending it on their own improvements.
I suspect if on the off chance, this new tax is passed by the Sioux Falls City Council – which it shouldn’t be – it will be crushed by the voters, and with good reason.
Citizens are not demanding the improvements. The airport isn’t demanding these improvements. I don’t even hear that the city is demanding it. It’s a private group who is pitching this, and wanting to do it largely on the back of the Sioux Falls Regional Airport Authority.
So, why has it even made it this far?
Maybe I’m wrong, but I really doubt the Sioux Falls voters are clamoring for a “Sioux Falls Development slush fund,” especially when as much as half of the fund will be collected locally from individual Sioux Falls residents and businesses.
If there are projects that need to be funded, it’s best to look within first. And only after that, determine if a project is worthy of taking more from people’s wallets to pay for. The thing is, if you’re looking at projects on an individual basis, and judge them on their need, their expense, taxpayer reaction, and what will happen if they pass, I suspect there are many projects which would likely not pass that test.
If you have a slush fund with millions in it to be thrown around with a reduced voter oversight? Well, then people tend to be far less frugal with other people’s money.
Economic Development isn’t a bad thing. Not at all. In the late 1980’s the State of South Dakota temporarily taxed itself for a loan fund, which it has leveraged for thousands of jobs. Loans are given out, and loans are repaid. But this? Taxing someone else for vague “project fund?” It doesn’t pass the smell test. The premise of a tax slush fund for vague concepts doesn’t show that there’s any care or respect for the taxpayer.
And that’s who any backers of it might be forced to answer to at the ballot box.